PROTECT-IP Act Becomes E-PARASITE (And Gets Much Worse)

The Senate's version of the PROTECT-IP bill was written to resemble a wish list of capabilities the content industry wishes it had, including the ability to silence and censor anyone it deemed to infringe its own property without needing to deal with the pesky notion of fair use or the legal rights of the accused. The House flavor has finally been unveiled—and it's even worse. Luckily, the name is unintentionally brilliant. Dubbed the Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation Act" or the E-PARASITE Act, it's a perfect title for its backers.

One of the things the House version of the bill effectively does away with is the DMCA's 'Safe Harbor' provision. Under the DMCA, an ISP is essentially shielded from being forced to act as a copyright enforcer through the safe harbor provision, which prevents them from being held accountable for a users' actions. The safe harbor provision is primarily quoted as it applies to things like copyright infringement, and the entertainment industry collectively hates it. The E-PARASITE Act states:

service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address. Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

Under the new bill, ISPs could be ordered to block access through the Attorney General and there's no provision for how a website accused of infringement would challenge that ruling before access is terminated. While the Senate version of the PROTECT-IP act only applied to sites "dedicated to infringing activities", the House flavor includes websites with "only limited purpose other than infringement" and those which "induce infringement." Since induction is broadly defined as "to introduce," the definition is broad enough to include a vast range of legal software--and the content industry is notoriously terrible at defining such behavior.

Historically, the movie and music industries have railed against inventions like radio, the ability to record musical performances, home video, movie rentals, and MP3 players. Onetime MPAA president Jack Valenti famously predicted that VCR's would utterly destroy the movie industry if viewers were allowed to tape TV broadcasts. The new law would also allow the Attorney General to take legal action against anyone who provides services or creates a product designed to bypass such blocks—the anonymous browsing service Tor would almost certainly be illegal, as would nearly any software product that includes DVD ripping.

The House version of the bill has been criticized as an attempt to create the Great Firewall of America, but the Big Content industries insist there's no other way they can possibly protect America from the impact of evil foreign file-sharing websites.