Skip to main content

EFFector - Volume 12, Issue 3 - Mandatory Filtering & Other Problems in Juvenile Justice Bill

   
   EFFector       Vol. 12, No. 3       Oct. 25, 1999       editor@eff.org
                                      
   A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424
                                      
  IN THE 147th ISSUE OF EFFECTOR (now with over 19,000 subscribers!):
  
     * ALERT: H.R. 10 
          + Mandatory Filtering & Other Problems in Juvenile Justice Bill
          + Cybersquatting Bill Threatens Free Speech, Privacy, Fair Use,
            and Justice
          + WHAT YOU CAN DO
     * Administrivia
       
   For more information on EFF activities & alerts: http://www.eff.org
     _________________________________________________________________
   
   
   
                Electronic Frontier Foundation ACTION ALERT:
                                      
H.R. 1501 & H.R. 3028 Threaten Online Free Speech, Privacy and Other Rights
                                      
              (Issued: Oct 25, 1999 / Deadline: Nov. 10, 1999)
                                      
   
   
   Mandatory Filtering & Other Problems in Juvenile Justice Bill
   
   The bloated Juvenile Justice bill (H.R. 1501), passed by both houses
   of Congress in different forms and currently in conference committee,
   contains, in the House version
   ( http://www.eff.org/censorship1999/hr1501_1999_bill.html ), a
   requirement that publicly-funded libraries (and schools) install
   Internet content filters on their computers to block access to illegal
   content (child porn, obscenity) for all users and to block legal but
   somewhat explicit content ("material harmful to minors") for kids.
   
   The principal problems with this legislation are:
     * It is physically impossible for any software to block "illegal"
       content, since only a court can deem it illegal on a case-by-case
       basis. The software can't predict what is and isn't legal.
     * Filtering software is notoriously imprecise, and does not perform
       as advertised (or as believed by Congress) - it both fails to
       block a wide range of "obscene", "indecent" or "harmful-to-minors"
       material, and accidentally (or in some cases maliciously) blocks
       material that is not in any way pornographic, including a wide
       range of news coverage, political content and health-related
       material, even sites that provide facts about filtering software
       in some cases. Even conservative groups oppose this legislation,
       since their own sites are frequently censored for "intolerance".
     * Much of this material is First Amendment-protected, even for
       minors, making the bill unconstitutional.
       
   Institutions that do not comply with these requirements would be
   stripped of vital E-Rate funding.
   
   Additionally, the Senate version
   ( http://www.eff.org/censorship1999/hr1501_sp1344_1999_bill.html ) of
   the Juvenile Justice bill contains a provision that will force large
   Internet service providers to give filtering software to their
   customers, free or at-cost. Aside from interfering in the ISP and
   software market for no legitimate reason (remember, filtering simply
   doesn't work the way Congress mistakenly thinks it does), this
   provision really makes no sense: Some filtering software is available
   for free over the Internet; any ISP, by definition, already provides
   their customers with free access to filtering software.
   
   As if all this weren't enough, the Senate version also includes a ban
   on online advertising or sale of firearms or explosives, and a
   provision to encourage the formation of an industry cartel to restrict
   access to constitutionally protected content ("violent" material,
   depictions of illegal activity, etc.)
   
   Finally, both versions of the bill have numerous threatening
   surveillance and other anti-privacy provisions.

   
  Cybersquatting Bill Threatens Free Speech, Privacy, Fair Use, and Justice
  
   The "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act," H.R. 3028, is about to be
   voted on in the House of Representatives and would be disastrous to
   the free speech and privacy rights of domain name holders. EFF urges
   you to contact your Representative today and tell him or her to vote
   no on this bill. (The bill has already passed the Senate, and is
   expected to be voted on any day now in the House.)
   
   With the stated goal of preventing trademark infringement and dilution
   in the Internet domain name space, the misguided "Trademark
   Cyberpiracy Prevention Act" the would make domain name holders legally
   liable in civil actions brought by trademark holders sharing the same
   name or one that is "confusingly similar."
   
   This bill undermines fair use and First Amendment freedoms in granting
   all trademark holders new rights greatly in excess of those already
   granted by existing trademark law. TCPA's provisions would enable
   bad-acting trademark holders to sue satirists and critics into
   silence.
   
   The legislation is an assault on anonymous speech; it effectively
   forces domain name holders to give up their privacy or have an
   increased likelihood of liability (and for no real reason, since there
   isn't any connection between anonymous use of the Internet and
   trademark violations).
   
   The bill will have a chilling effect on free expression because it
   effectively encourages registrars to reject the registration of any
   domain name that they believe has a remote possibility of being
   infringing.
   
   The TCPA bill also sets up a system whereby US-based companies would
   be able to take away domain names - without notice - from foreign
   companies and individuals who can't afford to travel to the US to
   defend themselves (assuming they even know about the action against
   them at all.)
   
   Attacked domain name holders would have to file their own lawsuits to
   prove their innocence, and do not even have affirmative defenses to
   assert when sued, only factors for optional court consideration.
   Domain name holders must not be treated guilty until proven innocent.
   
   Months' worth of international cooperation could be undermined in the
   Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), working
   to come to a balanced consensus on intellectual property, domain names
   and individual rights. Congress should not be second-guessing the
   Commerce Dept. (which is overseeing transition to the new
   administration of the Domain Naming System), nor suddenly wading into
   a highly contentious area of global technology policy.
   
   
  WHAT YOU CAN DO
  
   Contact your Representative and Senators, and urge them to pressure
   the Juvenile Justice Bill conferees to remove the senseless and highly
   controversial Net censorship provisions from the bill. SEPARATELY
   contact your Representative again (one issue per call, or the message
   may get confused) and ask them to vote against the "Trademark
   Cyberpiracy Prevention Act".
   
   (To find out who your legislators are and to get their contact
   information, please see EFF's Contacting Congress Factsheet. You
   should send a letter, fax or email, or make a phone call to the office
   of, your Representative (and your two Senators, in the case of the
   Juvenile Justice bill). For good measure, you may wish to send a
   similar letter of opposition to the offices of the President and
   Vice-President as well.)
   
   Short sample message about the Juvenile Justice Bill for phone calls
   or telegrams (faxes & letters should be more detailed):
   
     I'm a constituent, and am contacting you to oppose controversial
     and misguided provisions of the Juvenile Justice Bill currently in
     conference. I urge you to pressure the conferees to delete the
     following sections:
     * House version, Sections 1401-1403 - unconstitutional mandatory
       filtering, opposed by liberals and conservatives alike
     * Senate version, Section 1504 - mandatory ISP provision of filters
     * Senate version, Sections 1561-1564 - unconstitutional ban on
       online advertising that's legal in print;
     * Senate version, 401-406 - formation of industry cartel to restrict
       access to First Amendment-protected content that some find
       offensive.
     * Both versions, various sections - anti-privacy provisions
       regarding "clone pagers", increased uncontrolled sharing among
       agencies of personally identifiable information about citizens,
       and more surveillance.
       
     These provisions have not been examined much less approved by both
     houses of Congress, and should certainly not be passed as riders on
     the Juvenile Justice Bill.
     
   Short sample message about the "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act"
   for phone calls or telegrams (faxes should be more detailed; it is too
   late for postal letters, House may vote any day now):
   
     I'm a constitutent contacting you to oppose the antidemocratic and
     misguided "Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act", H.R. 3028. I urge
     Rep. [Rep.'s name here] to vote AGAINST this legislation. Some of
     the flaws in the bill:
     * It undermines fair use and free expression;
     * grants all trademark holders vast new rights, at the expense of
       every individual's rights;
     * threaten online privacy with anti-anonymity provisions that
       implicate First Amendment-protected anonymous speech;
     * treats accused domain name holders as guilty until proven
       innocent;
     * allows bad-acting trademark holders to steal domain names without
       notice and to shut down critics' Web sites.
     * effectively encourages registrars to reject any and all domain
       name registrations they imagine could conceivably be infringing,
       thereby chilling free expression and harming online commerce; and
     * undermines the work of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned
       Names and Numbers, the new non-profit created with the guidance of
       the Commerce Dept. to administer the Domain Naming System).
       
     This bill desperately needs to be examined in hearings, but is
     being rushed to a vote by intellectual property interests. Passage
     of this bill will thwart ongoing attempts to reach an international
     consensus on intellectual property, domain names and individual
     rights.

     _________________________________________________________________
   
                                 Administrivia
                                       
   EFFector is published by:
   
   The Electronic Frontier Foundation
   1550 Bryant St., Suite 725
   San Francisco CA 94103-4832 USA
   +1 415 436 9333 (voice)
   +1 415 436 9993 (fax)
   
   Editor: Stanton McCandlish, Communications Coordinator/Webmaster
   (editor@eff.org)
   
   Membership & donations: membership@eff.org
   General EFF, legal, policy or online resources queries: ask@eff.org
   
   Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged.
   Signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of EFF. To
   reproduce signed articles individually, please contact the authors for
   their express permission. Press releases and EFF announcements may be
   reproduced individually at will.
   
   To subscribe to EFFector via email, send message BODY of:
   subscribe effector-online
   to listserv@eff.org, which will add you to a subscription list for
   EFFector. To unsubscribe, send a similar message body, like so:
   unsubscribe effector-online
   to the same address.
   
   Please ask listmaster@eff.org to manually add you to or remove you
   from the list if this does not work for some reason.
   
   Back issues are available at:
   http://www.eff.org/effector
   
   To get the latest issue, send any message to
   effector-reflector@eff.org (or er@eff.org), and it will be mailed to
   you automagically. You can also get:
   http://www.eff.org/pub/EFF/Newsletters/EFFector/current.html
   
JavaScript license information