Censoring the internet – how the MPAA wants to control you online

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

January 28, 2015

Remember SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act)? Those were the bills introduced by the movie industry with the intent to curb your online freedoms in the name of copyright control. The dark truth about those bills (and ACTA in Europe)  is that they would have been a huge infringement on public rights, and would have amounted to nothing more than mass censorship.

Thankfully, due to overwhelming public backlash in the form of protests,  petitions and industry support (in the form of web site strikes from various big players and names),  both those bills were defeated in the US (as ACTA was in Europe).

Now, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is attempting to bring in similar legislation through the backdoor, and if it succeeds it could be very harmful indeed to your internet freedoms. The main problem is that the legislation is beneficial in a ‘top down’ manner, benefiting  major corporate copyright-holders, rather than the artists and creators of the copyrighted material – while being especially harmful to consumers and independent parties.

This is where the argument against DRM is also strongest, and is why Cory Doctorow has gone on board as adviser on the EFF’s mission Apollo 1201. In our opinion, all legislation that stops consumers having control over their products (by limiting the way in which they can use that product) is wrong, and putting a ball and chain on the internet is just as bad.

So how has the MPAA been carrying out this covert mission?  Thanks to documents leaked during the Sony hack in December, evidence is now on the table showing how the MPAA  has been  financially coercing state attorney generals to put pressure on Google to take down content (referred to as project Goliath) –  this may sound like bribery, but is in fact legal. Another way in which they have been looking to enforce restrictive copyright policies is by pressuring the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) to force the closure of internet sites that they consider to be infringing on the copyrights they hold.

By imposing stricter rules on bilateral trade agreements, the MPAA is getting what it wants through the back door, and now trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement seek to compound and boost these already restrictive policies.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains on its website why the TPP is so dangerous,

“TPP…  includes regulatory obligations that could impact how our lawmakers set domestic policy on copyright, data transfers, telecommunications, and more”

Perhaps the most worrying thing of all about the TPP  is the way in which it is trying  to impose legislation that would make it easier to stop whistleblowers and journalists from reporting on corporate wrongdoing – giving the interested corporate parties free reign to dictate what we see on the internet, and imposing totalitarian style censorship of the web in the name of copyright control. Talking about the TPP, the EFF says a new level of transparency is required in the lawmaking process, and they speak of regulation that would make it impossible for  the US Trade Representative to secretly pass copyright laws that directly affect  the flow of content on the internet,

“There are already laws and procedures in place for taking down sites that violate the law. These acts would allow the Attorney General, and even individuals, to create a blacklist to censor sites when no court has found that they have infringed copyright or any other law.”

An America where corporate interests dominate legislation, without due process, is contrary to the idea of Democracy that the US constantly swears it is upholding when it forces its confrontational foreign policy all over the world.  If elected representatives are excluded from the legislative process and interested parties such as lawyers and academics are excluded from negotiations, what you are left with is corporate dictatorship.

For this reason, here at Best VPN we want to make you aware that TPP is quite possibly one of the most important issues that America faces in terms of freedom of expression, freedom to innovate, and freedom to control what is in the best interests of American domestic industries as a whole. TPP puts too much power in too few hands, and it must be stopped.

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