The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that the U.S. government has launched a crackdown on web sites that are accused of violating copyrights. The government has done this by
seizing the domain names, having the names removed from DNS resolution — the process that converts the name you give to your web browser into an actual Internet address.
Over the past few days, the U.S. Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and nine U.S. Attorneys’ Offices seized 82 domain names of websites they claim were engaged in the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and illegal copyrighted works.
One major problem, as EFF reports it, is that at least some of the web sites included in the sweep are not in the business of illegal distribution, and are actually trying to do the right thing, taking down bad material when they find out about it.
What’s as disturbing, though, is the U.S. government’s attempt to censor the Internet this way. As the EFF points out, sites that are able to will only find other options, using non-U.S. DNS servers (as they are already doing). Meddling with the low-layer workings of the Internet this way is not a good thing. Shutting down web sites without due process is also not a good thing. As the Federal Trade Commission struggles with trying to address real cyber crime such as phishing and other forms of fraud, the entertainment industry has found a way to bypass the difficulties and get the Department of Justice to do preemptive copyright enforcement for them.
We criticize the government of China for blocking web sites they don’t like. It seems to me that we’re now doing the same thing. That our reasons are different matters little: this isn’t the way to deal with these issues.
This also does not make me comfortable when I think about how they might handle network-neutrality legislation.