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MichaelGeist.ca

Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest

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Some of the Internet's leading websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, and BoingBoing, will go dark tomorrow to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The U.S. bills have generated massive public protest over proposed provisions that could cause enormous harm to the Internet and freedom of speech. My blog will join the protest by going dark tomorrow. While there is little that Canadians can do to influence U.S. legislation, there are many reasons why I think it is important for Canadians to participate.

First, the SOPA provisions are designed to have an extra-territorial effect that manifests itself particularly strongly in Canada. As I discussed in a column last year, SOPA treats all dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org domain as domestic domain names for U.S. law purposes. Moreover, it defines "domestic Internet protocol addresses" - the numeric strings that constitute the actual address of a website or Internet connection - as "an Internet Protocol address for which the corresponding Internet Protocol allocation entity is located within a judicial district of the United States." Yet IP addresses are allocated by regional organizations, not national ones. The allocation entity located in the U.S. is called ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers. Its territory includes the U.S., Canada, and 20 Caribbean nations. This bill treats all IP addresses in this region as domestic for U.S. law purposes. To put this is context, every Canadian Internet provider relies on ARIN for its block of IP addresses. In fact, ARIN even allocates the block of IP addresses used by federal and provincial governments. The U.S. bill would treat them all as domestic for U.S. law purposes.

Second, Canadian businesses and websites could easily find themselves targeted by SOPA. The bill grants the U.S. "in rem" jurisdiction over any website that does not have a domestic jurisdictional connection. For those sites, the U.S. grants jurisdiction over the property of the site and opens the door to court orders requiring Internet providers to block the site and Internet search engines to stop linking to it. Should a Canadian website owner wish to challenge the court order, U.S. law asserts itself in another way, since in order for an owner to file a challenge (described as a "counter notification"), the owner must first consent to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts.


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