The Internet battle against SOPA and PIPA generated huge interest in Canada with many Canadians turning their sites dark (including Blogging Tories, Project Gutenberg Canada, and CIPPIC) in support of the protest. In writing about the link between SOPA and Canada, I noted
that the proposed legislation featured an aggressive jurisdictional approach that could target Canadian websites. Moreover, I argued that the same lobby groups promoting SOPA in the U.S. are behind the digital lock rules in Bill C-11.
While SOPA may be dead (for now) in the U.S., lobby groups are likely to intensify their efforts to export SOPA-like rules to other countries. With Bill C-11 back on the legislative agenda at the end of the month, Canada will be a prime target for SOPA style rules. In fact, a close review of the unpublished submissions to the Bill C-32 legislative committee reveals that several groups have laid the groundwork to add SOPA-like rules into Bill C-11, including blocking websites and expanding the “enabler provision”to target a wider range of websites. Given the reaction to SOPA in the U.S., where millions contacted their elected representatives to object to rules that threatened their Internet and digital rights, the political risks inherent in embracing SOPA-like rules are significant. [UPDATE: I have a second post that examines how the proposed changes could be used to target Youtube]
The music industry is unsurprisingly leading the way, demanding a series of changes that would make Bill C-11 look much more like SOPA.
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Last night’s Republican presidential candidate debate featured a question on SOPA, leading all four remaining candidates to register
their opposition to the bill. Their positions are consistent with the growing trend on the right in the United States as it the Republicans that are increasingly opposed
to SOPA and PIPA with Democratic supporters left to wonder
why their representatives remain so out-of-touch with the popular view of the public (this morning Democrat Senator Reid announced
a delay in the vote on PIPA). In fact, it isn’t just Republican politicians who are opposed to overbroad copyright reforms: the right-leaning press
and conservative think-tanks
are expressing the same views. None of these groups or politicians can be accused of being soft on crime or weak on intellectual property. Rather, they recognize the need for government to tread carefully and to ensure that legislative initiatives do not undermine basic freedoms and personal property rights.
The opposition to SOPA is not limited to the right in the United States. In Canada, Blogging Tories, which aggregates dozens of right-leaning blogs, went dark in support of the SOPA protest and the National Post was the only major Canadian paper to publish an editorial on the issue, concluding:
On Wednesday, Wikipedia and a handful of other sites will shut down in protest of SOPA and PIPA. They have our full support. Governments should not be in the business of propping up outdated business models, nor of blocking legitimate speech. This draft legislation would do both.
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The Toronto Star runs a special op-ed in which I discuss why I turned my site dark for 12 hours yesterday. The article (Toronto Star version, homepage version) reiterates how SOPA could be applied in Canada and emphasizes that if the U.S. passes the legislation, it is very likely to […]
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Appeared in the Toronto Star on January 19, 2012 as Michael Geist’s website went dark to protest U.S. restrictions on Internet Yesterday my website, michaelgeist.ca, went dark for 12 hours with thousands of posts replaced by a single page warning against proposed U.S. legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act […]
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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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