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The ServInt Source

A Short History of U.S. Internet Legislation: The DMCA and CDA

7235553_1c54b3bad4With the U.S. government’s PRISM program, there has been a lot of talk recently about what the government can and will do with Internet communications. What the government can do is limited by the protections granted under various laws governing the Internet. Some of the most important laws governing protections on the Internet are nearly 20 years old and – when written – were ancillary to much broader legislation.

In 1996, when the Internet was full of promise but of questionable scope, two pieces of United States legislation were passed that helped form the basis of the commercial Internet:

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230)

The Safe Harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA Safe Harbor).

As the Chief Operating Officer of a web hosting company, I take a lot of pride in the work we do. Companies like ServInt are building tools for people who are using the power of the Internet to change the world. Without the protections we receive from laws like CDA 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor, this innovation would not be possible. These two laws are the pillars that hold up the U.S. commercial Internet. Read more


CISPAThe Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is coming. If you haven’t heard as much about CISPA as you did about SOPA and PIPA, you will soon. CISPA needs to change, and we need your help to change it.

CISPA is a ‘cybersecurity’ bill that exists in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it’s only a matter of time before a counterpart appears in the Senate. Last week we explained a bit about the bill and what it does here on the ServInt Source. Prior versions of CISPA were as odious as PIPA and SOPA. The Internet community needs to be vigilant that the next version isn’t as well. CISPA is not the same bill as SOPA and PIPA, but it has the potential to be just as big an affront to your civil liberties.

CISPA confuses access to information with knowledge of that information. Read more

My Love Letter To The Internet – Why I helped found the i2Coalition

Many people think the world is slowly getting worse. With Banking scandals and debt crises, civil wars and oppression, it’s hard not to be inundated with stories of how bad things are right now.

But the World is not getting worse, it’s getting better. And this is in large part because of the Internet.

The Internet has not simply increased our speed of communication, it has brought us closer together as a human race. We are hearing the stories–often first hand–that might have garnered only a few minutes of coverage on the evening news twenty years ago. We can communicate, one-on-one with journalists, politicians, strangers, and long-lost friends. We can know the intimate details of people living a world away simply by getting online and reaching out to them.

Internet access can lift people out of poverty, start businesses and start revolutions. Much has been written about the use of the Internet through the “Arab Spring” – Internet censorship was both a reason for the uprising and a tool used to attempt to quell it. Like anything, it can be used for good or ill, but overall it’s the greatest communication tool man has ever made, and it’s bringing the world together.

One fascinating quality of the Internet is that it’s decentralized. It is not one thing. Nobody owns it. Moreover, for how many people use it, whose lives are intimately linked to it, few understand what it is, how it works, or even who builds it. Read more

SOPA/PIPA Update: We are Winning!

Today PIPA was dealt a crushing blow when Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled his planned cloture vote on the bill, agreeing to go back to the drawing board. The original vote was planned for Tuesday, Jan 24, but today he announced “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.” In a later statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) said his committee wouldn’t take up SOPA until “there is wider agreement on a solution.” “I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy.” “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

This shows huge positive progress on both PIPA & SOPA!

The fight isn’t over. These bills are not dead, they’re just not coming up for a vote right now.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate our remarkable accomplishment! Read more

Calling Your Senators about PIPA is Easier Than You Think

If you’re a subscriber to ServInt’s Twitter feed, you may have noticed we’ve tweeted nearly 30 separate “PIPA Facts” today.  We did this because we wanted to empower all our online friends and colleagues with easy-to-remember information that would make phone calls to their senators as quick and painless as possible.

It’s easy to get scared off when people ask you to upgrade your protests against bad policy from the virtual to the real world.  Tweeting and changing your Facebook status seems so much easier than actually picking up the phone and talking to somebody — somebody who you might feel understands the bill in question better than you do.

But that’s where you’re wrong.  The fact is, your elected representatives almost always know a lot less than you do about what you do for a living — and they actually want you to help them understand how legislation will affect businesses in their state or district.

Calls to your elected representatives don’t have to take long.  A few well-informed points, contained in a few simple sentences, are really what they’re seeking, and they’re what will make the difference.  It’s easy.

So here’s what we need you to do — preferably tomorrow, but certainly no later than Monday, Jan. 23: Read more

What I Learned at CES: PIPA is the New SOPA

ServInt COO Christian Dawson and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

SOPA seems to be breathing its last!  Although Rep. Smith has indicated that he’ll remove the controversial DNS blocking provisions of the bill, we’ve heard that the bill is so poisoned, hearings won’t resume, essentially killing the bill.  That’s a huge victory for the Internet industry. This bill had big money interests behind it, and we in the Internet community were outspent to a ridiculous degree — but at the end of the day our voices were heard. Victory, right?


Not so fast! Read more

SOPA, PIPA & CES: First Reactions

I just arrived back in Virginia after three days at International CES in Las Vegas, where I was spreading the word about the dangers of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) on behalf of the Internet industry.

I had the opportunity to speak in front of large audiences about PIPA and SOPA, and I believe that our message resonated. Along with many other key legislative and industry stakeholders, I was able to meet with Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrell Issa — and I got to engage in a lively and spirited debate with a Director from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I have stories to tell, insights to share, and legislative updates to pass along. I’m in the middle of a few “catch-up” items of business back at the ServInt ranch, but I hope to get everybody a detailed CES report on Monday.  Please check back then, and thanks for your support!

Christian Dawson is the Chief Operating Officer of ServInt.

The Battle over SOPA and PIPA continues at CES

In a few hours, our COO, Christian Dawson, will be speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is an important panel discussion involving SOPA and PIPA, but it is also a proud moment for ServInt.

Before I came to ServInt, I spent years in the trenches launching various satellite-powered multimedia technologies — efforts which required me to attend the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas each January.

These trips were a lot of work, but a lot of fun as well — and one of the reasons they were so much fun was because we had some of the coolest technology on display.  Trust me, in the early 2000s, satellites were hot, and it was fun being a “satellite guy.”  Our booths were swamped, reporters called us to make interview appointments, and there were few parties to which we weren’t invited.

Despite the fact that we were too cool for school, there was one thing we never got invited to do:  speak at any of the CES sessions.  That was a gig reserved for seriously important people only.  And that’s why ServInt’s presence on the “Infringement, Rogue Websites, and Copyright Crackdowns:  How to Catch Tuna Without Catching Dolphins” panel is such a big deal.

Today, ServInt’s leadership position in the efforts to stop SOPA, PIPA and other flawed anti-piracy legislation is being recognized by having our COO, Christian Dawson — in his role as one of the leading voices of the Save Hosting Coalition — represent the viewpoint of the internet infrastructure industry.

The battle against SOPA is hitting the mainstream, and ServInt is being recognized for all the hard work we’re putting into it. That’s great—but we still need your help. Make sure you follow ServInt on Facebook and Twitter for complete updates on SOPA and PIPA, and please visit to join the battle against this extremely dangerous and misguided legislation.

We’ll keep you posted on how the panel goes.  In the meantime:  break a leg, Christian!

Fritz Stolzenbach is ServInt’s Vice President of Marketing and Business Development

ServInt, GoDaddy, SOPA and the Fight to Save the Internet

In the wake of a well-publicized boycott campaign against GoDaddy, hosting providers are racing to try to come up with their stances against SOPA. I am proud that we don’t need to do that. Our stance on SOPA, its sister bill PIPA, and the bill from whence they both came COICA, is well known. We have spent much of the last year not just railing against these bills but trying to do something about them.

The well-intentioned goal of SOPA is to go after piracy, which is noble and very important. But piracy is something that needs to be handled smartly, with a laser-focus. SOPA isn’t a laser, it’s a wrecking ball that if enacted is likely to destroy hard-working legitimate businesses more frequently than it does pirates. SOPA allows people merely accused of ‘contributing to infringement’ to have their business taken from them. Pirates will maintain back-up plans in case they get their resources pulled – it’s legitimate businesses that will suffer most. SOPA will be used for censorship and as an anti-competitive tool. It will stifle innovation, and is one of the most dangerous bills I have seen in my two decades in this industry. Read more

What is SOPA and PIPA?

from left to right: Hamish Chandra, Micah Schaffer, Alexis Ohanian, Rep. Jason Chafferz, Christian Dawson, Leah Belsky

I just finished listening to 12+ hours of day one of the House Judiciary Committee Markup of H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and I have the scars to prove it. It was a brutal day of legislating. Four Congressmen, Reps. Issa, Lofgren, Polis and Chaffetz, stood out as having a firm grasp on the Internet and its complexities, and spoke eloquently about the dangers of SOPA. They weren’t being listened to by the Chairman, who is intent on bringing this dangerous, job-killing, security-killing, and frankly terrible bill to the House floor.

At the same time, I got to announce that the Save Hosting Coalition sent a letter to the Senate—signed by 275 Internet executives—opposing PIPA, with a similar letter on its way opposing SOPA. Both of these letters were huge accomplishments for a normally fragmented industry.

In the wake of all that, I wanted to get back to basics and try to give you an easy-to-understand overview of what SOPA is, where it is, why you should care and what you should do to stop it from becoming law. I tried to make it “non-technical” so if you are reading this and you are technical, pass it along to your friends who aren’t, but want to better understand the threats at hand.

Our story begins… Read more

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