CISPA: “cybersecurity” includes copyright enforcement

Advocates of CISPA are distinguishing it from SOPA by aiming that addresses “cybersecurity” as opposed to copyright protection. I think the hope is to deflate opposition from digital natives who feel entitled to their internet. But look at the words of Mike Rogers, introducing the bill in November 2011 to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association [campaign contribs here]:

The bill has nothing to do with government surveillance. It simply provides clear authority to the private sector, not the government, to identify and share cyber threat information. And remember what the threat is: up to a trillion dollars a year in lost intellectual property. The one thing that has set America apart from every other nation is our innovation in our intellectual property. [source]

Critics are correct to point out that CISPA does grants massive surveillance powers to the national security apparatus. (At this point I don’t think too many of us are naive enough to be placated by the claim that corporate cooperation is “voluntary.”) But they should not lose sight of the fact that copyright is still one of the bill’s explicit targets.

They always put the juicy stuff in the definitions. For instance, the fact that "cyber threat information" includes “information pertaining to…theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.”

They like to conjure up images of Chinese spies and American traitors stealing the plans for fighter jets, and sometimes they talk about malicious attacks by unruly digital teenagers. (One of the most obnoxious rationalizations for the bill says it’s necessary to allow the government to warn corporations about threats; if so, just authorize sharing from government to corporations, not the other way around.)

Remember, Rogers made this speech before SOPA blew up in mid-January. In November, Rogers was talking about “economic predators, including nation-states.” Today, it’s all about malicious Chinese hackers.

And the newspapers, they all went along for the ride. (Arrest me now!) Brian LaSorsa at Daily Caller realizes that CISPA targets the same people and websites as SOPA. The LA Times discussed the similarity on April 9. But for the most part, the media have bought into the story that CISPA is somehow about different stuff. By protecting websites and ISPs from liability and giving the press a plausible narrative, they’ve managed to suppress the dissent that should have rolled over from the SOPA protests. Even Wired, which opposes both bills, seems to have bought into the new framing.

We can’t let them divide us by separating “privacy” and “freedom,” especially in a militarized society where the government can use information to take action directly against its people. (Cf. police can’t search you at random, but they can create a rapid vicious circle of legal enforcement by harassing you, threatening you with arrest, asking for identification, and so on.)

It’s really tough to keep pace with all the crap they throw at us. For now, it should be about spreading good information—but it’s clear that we need to keep in mind the goal of real democracy in governance and in media.

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