The problem with PIPA: the Protect IP Act

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If passed, PIPA would give the government and rights holders dramatic new powers to target websites accused of the unlicensed distribution of copyrighted content. Once identified, accused sites would have their domains disabled in DNS servers (the servers that match the domain name with the numerical IP address and make sure you go to the websites you want to), and search engines, advertising companies and any affiliated websites could be required to remove links to the offending site – effectively blacklisting the URL and placing undo burden on those associated with it to prove their innocence.

In many cases, website proprietors won’t even know PIPA has targeted them until their site has already been blacklisted under a temporary restraining order. They wouldn’t even get their day in court until their business has already been shut down.

This would be a problem under any legal regime that cared about the rights of the accused, but it's quite more egregious given law enforcement's sloppy use of its existent powers in the Internet realm — accidentally shutting down 84,000 websites earlier this year — and affidavits that have demonstrated that they're taking marching orders from Hollywood and the recording industry.

This sort of conduct recently spurred nearly 150 tech entrepreneurs that are responsible for the creation of tens of thousands of jobs to sign a letter arguing that PIPA is "vague and ripe for abuse," "will create significant burdens for smaller tech companies," and "will harm our ability to build new, safe, and secure services."

And it's why more than 50 major venture capitalists argue "PIPA will ultimately put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy."

Furthermore, experts in digital security have argued that the Blacklist Bill’s mandated changes to the domain-name system (DNS) would severely compromise current online security efforts, exposing users to increased risk and hampering businesses that depend on the current system.

In a recent whitepaper penned by internet security experts and developers, the authors warn that “the effects of increased security vulnerability will be felt not just by users, but by U.S. networks and businesses, including banks and credit card companies, which will internalize the costs of disruptions, identity theft, and financial fraud.”

A strategy that burdens countless businesses, decimates online security, and implements an internet censorship program akin to those of totalitarian Mid-East regimes and the “Great Firewall of China” has no place in the United States of America.  Repeating the assertion that PIPA will yield innovation doesn't make it true.  Neither does Hollywood's gall in concocting that claim the same year it's trotted out a record 27 sequels.

David Segal is a former Rhode Island state representative and candidate for Congress.  He is the executive director of Demand Progress, a grassroots group which promotes civil liberties and has steered more than 400,000 contacts to Congress in opposition to the PROTECT IP Act.