Charles Ellis Schumer is the senior United States senator for New York. A Democrat, he has represented New York on the national level since he became a member of the House of Representatives in 1998. He started his political career in 1974 when, at the age of 23, he became the youngest person to join the New York State Legislature since Teddy Roosevelt. When it comes to establishment politics it doesn’t get much better than good ol’ Chuck Schumer.
So what should we make of it when we hear that the upstanding gentleman from New York is “in favor of censoring the internet”?
Yes, those are reported to be the exact words used by a staffer in Schumer’s office to represent his position on the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the Senate legislation analogous to the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)?
“Senator Schumer is in favor of censoring the internet,” is what fellow blogger Amanda Peyton says she was told when she called Schumer’s office to understand why he was in support of PIPA.
I was calling mostly to find out why the Senator supports (and co-sponsored!) S.968, aka the PROTECT IP Act aka PIPA. Perhaps there was an argument I was missing — I know how myopic the tech world can be sometimes.
The first question I asked was “why does the Senator support this legislation?”
The guy on the other end of the phone said: “well, he’s a co-sponsor so he’s not changing his position.”
He must have known why I was calling.
Asked the same question again. This time the reply I got this time was different: “Senator Schumer is in favor of censoring the internet.”
[...] I said again: “So you’re saying Senator Schumer is in favor of censoring the internet?”
“Yes.” He then backpedaled a bit, and mentioned that Schumer is in favor of censoring illegal activities on the internet. But still, the C-word.
It’s 2012 in the United States of America, in peacetime. One of our most esteemed politicians is open supporter of censorship. If you believe, as I do, that “America” is not just a location on a map, but also an ideal and way of life then it’s fair to ask, “Are we still in America?”
The legislation in question, SOPA and PIPA, are supposedly intended to protect against trademark and copyright infringement — piracy, in other words. But their methods go too far. As Mark Lemley, David Levine and David Post write in the Stanford Law Review (my emphasis)
SOPA establishes a scheme under which an [intellectual property] rights holder need only notify credit card companies of the facts supporting its “good faith belief” that an identified Internet site is “primarily designed or operated for the purpose of” infringement. The recipients of that notice will then have five days to cease doing business with the specified site by taking “technically feasible and reasonable” steps to prevent it “from completing payment transactions” with customers. And all of this occurs based upon a notice delivered by the rights holder, which no neutral third party has even looked at, let alone adjudicated on the merits. If they get the assistance of a court, IP owners can also prevent other companies from “making available advertisements” to the site, and the government can prevent search engines from pointing to that site.
Chris Heald on Mashable describes how this will decimate sites like YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia and Gmail and cuts even more quickly to the chase:
- Gives the government the right to unilaterally censor foreign websites.
- Gives copyright holders the right to issue economic takedowns and bring lawsuits against website owners and operators, if those websites have features that make it possible to post infringing content.
- Makes it a felony offense to post a copyrighted song or video.
This bill turns us all into criminals. If it passes, then you either stop using the Internet, or you simply hope that you never end up in the crosshairs, because if you’re targeted, you will be destroyed by this bill. You don’t have to be a big, mean, nasty criminal — common Internet usage is effectively criminalized under this law. This bill will kill American innovation and development of the Internet, as it will become too risky to do anything of value.
Note that here has been almost no mention of any of this debate on primetime news broadcasts.The major media companies? Most of them support it.
Given the broad powers that this bill grants to take down offending websites at the slightest provocation, is it any wonder that the American Bankers Association supports this bill? As the Senator of a state that is so very dependent on the banking industry, is it any wonder that Chuck Schumer is on board? Finally, readers, since the mainstream financial press is utterly captured how can outlets such as Naked Capitalism, Credit Writedowns, Zero Hedge and yes, the Finance Addict, bring you the stories that the powerful would prefer you didn’t read?
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