A bit of an emergency: The rumor all over Capitol Hill is that the House version of the Internet Blacklist Bill (PROTECT IP Act) will be introduced this week -- probably tomorrow -- by congressmembers Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Lamar Smith (R-TX) and others.
Our allies on the Hill say the bill's so bad that it could effectively destroy YouTube, Twitter, and other sites that rely on user-generated content by making the sites' owners legally responsible for everything their users post. Nobody will want to take that risk, so these sites and others could be forced to shut down if it manages to pass as it stands.
Facebook, Myspace, and Google+ would be at risk. The cyberlocker and streaming provisions could affect your iPhone, Android, AmazonCloud, Pandora, Grooveshark and even your email accounts.
Our information is not from bomb-throwing activists, but rather the people who run some of the most established and respected civil liberties and tech freedom outfits, along with lobbyists for a few corporations that oppose the legislation.
The original PROTECT IP Act would give the government new powers to block Americans' access to sites accused of copyright infringement. Its Senate form would enable censorship and generally stifle innovation online. (Which is why civil libertarians, tech activists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and Internet engineers have vocally opposed it.) It's being pushed by Hollywood, the Recording Artists, Pharma, and the Chamber of Commerce. It was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and is being blocked by a 'hold' issued by Ron Wyden (D-OR).
This new, even more extreme position might be a negotiating tack, or it might be a manifestation of DC's limited knowledge about the Internet and how most Americans make use of it -- a failing they've demonstrated time and again in recent months.
Either way, all of this is -- surprise -- being driven by a few major corporations that are trying to protect their private profits. They're combining at least four of their more noxious proposals into this omnibus grab-bag of corporate goodies.
The draft bill would:
1) Give the government and private corporations new powers to block access to sites accused of copyright infringement;
2) Criminalize the streaming of copyrighted content;
3) Restrict cloud-based storage services, music lockers, and the like;
4) Create the aforementioned new liabilities for sites that encourage the posting of user-generated content.