Tomorrow, December 15, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary will meet to markup and potentially vote in committee on H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA. Today the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – of which ISOC-NY is a member – has written a letter to the House Committee expressing its profound concern with the proposed legislation, and the equivalent PROTECT-IP (PIPA) bill in the U.S. Senate, both of which would mandate the blocking and filtering of the Domain Name System (DNS).
In particular, the NCUC is very concerned with the provisions in both Bills relating to Domain Name System (DNS) filtering. As identified by numerous technical, legal and policy experts:
DNS filtering is often proposed as a way to block illegal content consumption by end users. Yet policies to mandate DNS filtering will be ineffective for that purpose and will interfere with cross-border data flows and services undermining innovation and social development across the globe.
- Filtering DNS or blocking domain names does not remove the illegal content – it simply makes the content harder to find. Those who are determined to download filtered content can easily use a number of widely available, legitimately-proposed tools to circumvent DNS filtering regimes. As a result, DNS filtering encourages the creation of alternative, non-standard DNS systems.
- DNS filtering and blocking raises human right and freedom of expression concerns, and often curtails international principles regarding the rule of law, due process and justice. Some countries have employed DNS filtering and blocking as a way to restrict access to the global Internet and to curb free speech.
- The United States has historically advocated for freedom of expression and has been a strong proponent of online Internet freedoms. The United States Government has a significant responsibility to balance its domestic obligations and their potential global impact, especially with respect to Internet policy. Given its commitment to global Internet freedom, it would be detrimental to the global Internet if the United States were to insist on such an approach.
NCUC explains that the implications of legislation like PIPA and SOPA will be to have a negative impact upon the Internet’s design and can potentially create serious international political and legal problems. It will compromise Internet freedom held dearly by various organizations and institutions, like the OECD, the European Parliament, the Internet Society, and the Council of Europe – all of whom have committed to preserve this freedom and requested the United States to commit as well to preserving this freedom.
The letter ends with an appeal to the Committee to consider the viewpoints also expressed by a multitude of actors and organizations and not support legislation that undermines the global Internet.