Scott Jordan
Department of Computer Science University of California, Irvine
  Copyright Protection Case Study

Copyright is an established legal concept in the United States. See the wikipedia pages on copyright and on copyright infringement for an overview. Copyright infringement on the Internet has become an issue of intense debate. You will likely be most familiar with online copyright infringement as it applies to music and movies, but the concept also applies to other types of online material.

In this case study, we will consider online piracy legislation recently debated in Congress. We will consider the Senate version called S.968 The Protect-IP Act (ProtectIP). See the wikipedia page on The Protect IP Act for an overview. (There was also a version in the House called H.R.3261 The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), but if differed somewhat from the Senate version.)

We will consider only the parts of the Senate bill that concern Domain Name Servers. We will not consider the effect on websites, search engines, or advertisers.

Here are materials to prepare for the case study:

  • My slides from lecture.
  • Read the Congressional Research Service's A Legal Analysis of S.968, the Protect IP Act to get an introduction to bill and the issues surrounding it. This report was prepared for members of Congress to learn about the issue.
  • From the ProtectIP bill, read some of the definitions on pages 32-34 (including "Internet site dedicated to infringing activities" and "nondomestic domain name"), and read the portions that pertain to domain name servers and domain name registrars (including pages 34-39).
  • From the report produced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, read the background and purposes on pages 1-10 and the summary of the portions that pertain to domain name servers and domain name registrars on pages 16-18.
  • Finally, review Lobbyists arguments for or against bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the topic. View the video (skip the first 19 minutes) and/or read their written statements.

There are a few studies of online copyright infringement, e.g. this report by Envisional, and this dissertation by Alexandre Mateus.

You'll be able to find many arguments for and against the proposed legislation online. Here are a few:

  • Opposition from Public Knowledge, e.g. here.
  • Opposition from the Internet Society, e.g. here.
  • Support from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, e.g. here.
  • Debates on the PBS Newshour, here and here.
  • Most major newspapers have news articles and/or editorials, e.g. the Los Angeles Times

If you are a Lobbyist:

  • Pretend you are trying to convince Congress of your position. Your classmates are Senators.
  • You should argue for or against sections of the Senate bill that pertain to domain name servers and doman name registrars. "Copyright Protection Pro" means you should argue for these sections. "Copyright Protection Con" means you should argue against these sections.
  • Quickly and concisely, define your position. Don't assume that the Senators know what the issue is or what your position is.
  • Present your most persuasive arguments in the most powerful manner you can. However, be accurate.
  • Include technical, economic, and public policy aspects. You don't need to answer all of the following questions, but you should have at least one technical argument, at least one economic argument, and at least one public policy argument.
  • Technical questions:
    • If Protect-IP were law, what would be the effect on:
      • DNS registrars inside the United States?
      • DNS registrars outside the United States?
      • Domain Name Servers inside the United States?
      • Domain Name Servers outside the United States?
    • If Protect-IP were law, what would be the effect on:
      • an Internet user in the United States who is attempting to access a website inside the Unites States that provides .torrent files for copyrighted music and videos?
      • an Internet user in the United States who is attempting to access a website outside the Unites States that provides .torrent files for copyrighted music and videos?
  • Economic questions:
    • Is peer-to-peer file sharing a public good?
    • Are there positive or negative externalities?
  • Public policy questions:
    • Are the Protect-IP restrictions good or bad for society?
    • What is the Fair Use doctrine, and how would Protect-IP affect my ability to make information available to the class?

If you are a Staffer:

  • Recomend how your Senator should vote.
  • You can argue that he or she should vote for the sections of the Senate bill that pertain to domain name servers and doman name registrars, that he or she should vote against the sections of the Senate bill that pertain to domain name servers and doman name registrars, or you can recommend specific amendments.
  • Quickly and concisely, define your position. Assume that the class has heard the Lobbyist arguments.
  • Include technical, economic, and public policy aspects. You don't need to answer all of the following questions, but you should have at least one technical argument, at least one economic argument, and at least one public policy argument.
  • Technical questions:
    • Would these provisions be effective?
    • What types of reasonable activities will be prohibited and/or what types of unreasonable activities will be allowed?
  • Economic questions:
    • Is peer-to-peer file sharing a public good?
    • Are there positive or negative externalities?
  • Public policy questions:
    • Would Protect-IP decrease or increase overall consumer utility?
    • How should the movie industry avoid the decrease in sales experienced by the music industry?

 

Scott Jordan last modified April 3, 2017 UCICSNetworked Systems