Copyright infringement bill could bring the FBI to your intranet

If you have a Web site, you're a publisher; if you're a publisher, you're vulnerable

A senator from Oregon has threatened to block a copyright enforcement bill that would give U.S. law enforcement the right to shut down Web sites without trial or defense if it finds the central reason for the site is to distribute copyrighted information illegally.

 Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.) calls the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA bill the "wrong medicine" for copyright infringement, partially because it includes enforcement measures like a sledge hammer, when ice tongs are more appropriate. A similar bill would have killed Pandora, YouTube, and Amazon Music and a range of other sites that broke new ground in content distribution when they launched -- ground slow-changing copyright laws and the distributors whose financial interest is in existing business models could not or would not respond to quickly enough.

This is another of those issues you might care about (or not) in your personal life, but that has no effect on your job.

Its only potential impact is on content creators, music or movie distributors and publishers.

Guess what? You're a publisher.

Static or dynamic, brochureware or etailer, your Web site is every bit as much a publishing mechanism as the Web site for the New York Times or PirateBay.

And you already know you don't always control who puts what up online. Worst case is the guy who was fired and escorted from the building because of images on a hard drive that had to be imaged and sealed as evidence if it ever went to court.

But even office workers sharing songs on iTunes could get you in trouble if the files are exposed outside the firewall, or if some of your PowerPoint Rangers are a little too free with the quotes or movie clips they use to liven up the presentations, especially if the .PPTs are distributed across the WAN or Internet to branch offices and other divisions.

from Wired: The content companies have tried suing college students. They’ve tried suing internet startups. Now they want the federal government to act as their private security agents, policing the internet for suspected pirates before making them walk the digital plank.

 The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a pretty strong explanation of and well-stated opposition to the bill on its site, but it's hardly the only one opposing it.

A list of conservative bloggers (scroll to the bottom) vote No,  as does the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is non-partisan but leans toward the information-wants-to-be-free end of the spectrum.

More polysyllabic opposition comes from an alarmingly long list of law professors and a much, much longer list of people listed as Internet engineers on an overview page at PublicKnowledge.org, but who you might know as the founders or inventors of DNS, LDAP, the first .com, PPP, HTTP/1.1 and a host of the kind of people you'd seek out at conferences just to say you met them.

That doesn't mean they're right, and it doesn't mean copyright infringement is going to be a problem in your company, no matter how many internal or external sites you have or how uncontrolled your content is.

It does mean there's someone holding a sledge hammer and looking for an opportunity to start swinging to stop all this dangerous content sharing, and who might be looking for an example who, for once, isn't a student or an old lady.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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