Associate Professor Uses Proposed Legislation as a Teaching Moment
Web Editor - Published: January 18, 2012
SOPA300px“We’re doing a law firm simulation in class where the students are divided into 5 law firms, maintaining their own websites and blogs and tracking intellectual property issues,” says Associate Professor Tonya Evans of her efforts to use two proposed pieces of legislation – the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and its counterpart in the Senate known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) – as teachable moments for her students.

Both bills are designed to make it more difficult to sell or distribute a range of copyrighted materials such as movies, television shows, and music, as well as counterfeit goods ranging from pharmaceuticals to watches. The bills have support from both sides of the political spectrum, and the purpose of the legislation is broadly regarded as a worthy goal. There is, however, strong opposition to the methodology employed in the proposed legislation from a range of technology companies and advocates for Internet freedom, who have serious reservations about the provisions contained within.

One particular provision in a proposed version of the legislation requires service providers to perform DNS (domain name server) blocking of infringing foreign sites, which would cut the DNS records that connect a site’s IP address to the url used to access it (such sites would still be accessible by directly entering the IP address of the site). The Obama Administration recently issued a statement saying in part, ““Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,” and echoing concerns expressed by some security experts that enforcing some provisions of the bill could be detrimental to the underlying architecture of the Internet.

Professor Evans is also participating in a special “black out” protest occurring today, January 18th, on her personal site, www.proftonyaevans.com, writing, "Many websites are blacked out today to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens Internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). From personal blogs to giants like WordPress and Wikipedia, sites all over the web — including this one by intellectual property Professor Tonya M. Evans — are asking for you to help us stop this dangerous legislation from being passed. Please watch the video below to learn how this legislation will affect Internet freedom, then scroll down to take action."