Of all the ways to describe the Internet, maybe “the wild west” is the most appropriate. For every act of legislation and governance attempted by various governmental and non-governmental bodies, the power of the Internet still lies in the hands of the billions of people who use it. Regulating what they do comes down to simply hoping that they all obey local and international law, but lawmakers have found that that’s nothing more than shooting in the dark.
Here’s a look at some of the recent attempts to police the Internet.
Ever since heavy metal band Metallica blew the whistle on the file sharing service Napster, digital copyright infringement of media has been an issue of legal and technological debate. While there is little doubt that pirating of music, TV shows, movies and books is illegal, there is no consensus on how to effectively prevent people from downloading protected materials, and prosecuting them for doing so.
One proposed method was the Stop Online Privacy Act, or SOPA. Proposed by Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas, SOPA would have expanded the jurisdiction of American law enforcement to prosecute individuals suspected of engaging in digital copyright violation, as well as requiring search engines and Internet Service Providers to block websites that illegally contain copyrighted material.
SOPA provoked a monumental backlash by thousands of websites, who claimed the bill was damagingly far reaching and restrictive. In protest, the English-language mirror of Wikipedia and reddit shut down for 24 hours. Google remained active, but blacked out its logo to symbolize the effect that SOPA would have on the freedom of speech and ideas on the Internet.
Smith conceded that not enough consensus was present for the bill to pass, and postponed its consideration.
Notwithstanding the failure of SOPA, there were still attempts to police the activity of websites that can be used to host copyrighted material. One such site is Megaupload, which allowed users to host any variety of files on the site’s servers – a form of cloud hosting. The ease with which users placed copyrighted media on Megaupload for others to download and share was one reason the site saw upwards of 21 billion users in a year.
Despite the fact that Megaupload claimed that they held a no-tolerance policy for copyrighted material found on their servers, this was not good enough for the U.S. Department of Justice, who shut down the site. The FBI officially requested the government of New Zealand to extradite Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom on charges of money-laundering and racketeering.
Despite the arrest and the site shut down, the legalities of the cases against Dotcom and Megaupload are fraught with controversy. Concerns were raised regarding the nature of the evidence seized and used against Dotcom, and a New Zealand judge felt that the Department of Justice was using civil laws in a criminal case, thereby creating legal complications. The issue of an American judicial body prosecuting a New Zealand resident over computer servers located in Hong Kong raised further concerns, exemplifying the difficulty that arises in attempting to police the Internet.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 FreakOutNation.com