US Government seizes over 70 Domain Names

I’ve been ranting about the COICA, a bill that may be passed through the senate before the year is out. The bill would allow the government to blacklist sites without warning (Here’s an account of my personal struggles with it). Well, Homeland security just did what the bill was going to do anyways.

*sigh* Come on, Homeland Security.
Over 70 “alleged” piracy sites have been seized by the Department of Homeland Security this morning, some without any torrents or trackers (meaning that they facilitate no files of any sort, and thus couldn’t possibly be trafficking illegal content). They were not forewarned, nor were they provided with any means of due process. The sites were simply removed, without warning. Some popular sites, like Torrent-Finder.com,  are listed among the blacklisted sites.

Keep in mind, COICA is not even out of the Senate, let alone in effect.

Some of the sites were, in fact, somewhat annoying; several of them sold knock-off versions of popular brands (Burberry scarves, Polo ties, and NFL jerseys, to name a few), but this doesn’t mean that they had any less right to exist than other sites. I’m a bit repulsed by the fact that legislature wasn’t even needed to carry out these takedowns. I feel like these seizures are blatantly unconstitutional and need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

For a list of the taken-down sites, check TorrentFreak’s article.

Old-Fashioned Principles Define Eye Level Holdings, LLC

Integrity, financial strength, and quality of service defines Eye Level Holdings LLC. This holding firm began in Phoenix, AZ several years ago and maintains various companies in the technology industry. With individuals all across the state directing their attention to search engine optimization, computer information systems, and interactive software and media solutions, Eye Level Holdings continues to grow. Eye Level Holdings, LLC, takes pride in this work ethic and its foundation based on old-fashioned principles, not typically seen in today’s workforce.

About Eye Level Holdings

Developed in 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona, Eye Level Holdings is a holding firm with multiple companies in the technology industry. Its employees work across the state and the firm continues to be a main player in this industry. Eye Level Holdings focuses on search engine optimization, computer information systems, interactive software and media solutions. The company takes pride in continuing to grow and learn about new developments to stay ahead of the rest in the technology field.

A Company That Gives Back

Although Eye Level Holdings is dedicated to the companies that it maintains, it also highly values supporting the communities in which those companies reside. The philanthropic side of Eye Level Holdings LLC uses a unique process to enhance the communities in which it invests. Employees are asked to nominate local, deserving charities to receive the company’s donations of time and money. Eye Level Holdings LLC is committed to maintaining both their financial and philanthropic values.

Developed in 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona, Eye Level Holdings is a holding firm with multiple companies in the technology industry. Its employees work across the state and the firm continues to be a main player in this industry. Eye Level Holdings focuses on search engine optimization, computer information systems, interactive software and media solutions. The company takes pride in continuing to grow and learn about new developments to stay ahead of the rest in the technology field.

COICA: The Internet Blacklist (11/20)

There is a  bill being pushed through congress that could potentially censor the internet for Americans. It’s the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act,” and this is what I’m doing about it.

COICA - Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act

COICA - Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act

What’s the dilemma, you say? Well, in the US (yeah, I know most of you are from the US anyways), there’s a bill that’s being pushed through the Senate called the Combatting Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act. The bill, which aims to virtually eliminate copyright infringement in the United States and curb copyright , is good. In theory.

The bill, however, seems to be written by people who not only have little understanding of the capabilities of the modern day user, but also have little regard for our country’s own constitution.

What am I talking about?

Quite a bit, actually. The bill functions like this: if a website is deemed, by a set of pre-defined, yet somewhat vague, rules, to function primarily as a provider of illegal content, then it can just be blacklisted. In other words, no one in the United States will be able to view it. Good in theory, right?

Get educated: A brief history on downloading.

Well, in theory. First of all, file sharing doesn’t work quite like the Senators who drafted this bill think it does. Back in the day (this is even before the wonders of Limewire), people would share things by hosting them on web servers and downloading them directly. In other words, a user would go to a website, click a link, and get content that didn’t legally belong to him.

P2P

Then people got smarter and started using Peer to Peer (or P2P) networks. In this way, every person who wants to share content gets a piece of client software that lets them browse the public files of every other person with this software and download from whomever they choose. This means that web servers no longer host content, but instead the content is hosted on another person’s computer somewhere. Thus, once the client has been downloaded to a user’s computer, the website no longer has anything to do with the content that is shared or distributed. Some common examples are Limewire (which has now been taken down) and Frostwire. I’m not sure why they like the word “wire” in their names.

Torrent

After P2P came the “torrent” network. Now, instead of using a network to manage file sharing, servers managed the connections between computers. But this came with an advantage; instead of downloading content from just one computer, content was streamed from multiple computers at once in a “torrent” of information. This not only meant that the speed in which files were transfered could be increased, but it also meant that not just one single user was responsible for hosting the files being transfered. Websites, in a “torrent” setup, host small torrent files that essentially tell the users computers which servers to connect to.

What this bill would do.

If this bill would pass, the websites, which, as you can see, have less and less to do with the process of file sharing, would be blocked from United States viewers. Proxy servers, or servers outside the jurisdiction of the US blacklist, could serve up blacklisted content to American users at slightly slower rates (only because getting information through a proxy means the data has to bounce around the globe before it gets to you). This won’t stop illegal content from being sent from computer to computer all throughout America. In fact, it will do little apart from taking some potentially good websites offline.

Unconstitutional Repercussions.

The right to due process, or the right a citizen has to not be harmed by the government without respect for his or her rights, is a very important aspect of American society. You aren’t allowed to limit rights or impose punishments without a fair trial first. Not only would this bill remove free speech rights by removing websites without warning, but it would also do so without following due process.

That’s scary.

But do you know what’s even scarier? Perfectly legitimate sites could be taken down. As David Segal, from the Huffington Post, points out, even sites as legitimate as Youtube could be taken down if a company provided a viable argument that enough of its users used it to listen to illegally posted music and watch infringing videos.

Here’s what I’m doing about it.

I’m a student in high school. There are tons of opportunities for me to take, but not all of them are as apparent as others. With the help of my American Government/Political Science teacher, I’m hoping to make at least some headway into what this bill is really about, what is going to happen to it, and what I can do to voice my own opinion. I’m going to keep a running log here about what I’ve been doing about this bill.

October 14, 2010

While browsing the web, I came across an article on the COICA. The website was a rather “The system’s corrupted, man!” type of site, so I did some of my own research. That’s when I came across the Huffington Post article.

October 17, 2010

I signed a petition against the bill on DemandProgress.org, a somewhat extreme site that seemed to be spearheading the attack against the bill.

DemandProgress.org's Anti-Blacklist campaign.

October 26th, 2010

I mentioned the bill to my Government teacher, who encouraged me to take further action. She pointed me towards the Center for Democracy and Technology, an interest group that seemed to fit my needs.

October 3oth, 2010

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScaqBy5f50A

After playing phone tag for a few days, I was able to snag a phone conversation with a member of Senator Arlen Specter‘s staff. The representative gave me brief information on the bill, explained that would have sufficient checks to ensure that sites would not be wrongly blacklisted. She also stressed the fact that the owners of the site could argue a banned site or could change the site and be removed from the blacklist. I was still concerned, however, because the bill still blocked first and asked questions later, so to speak. The representative suggested I call Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy‘s office. The bill would be reviewed on the Judicial Committee before being sent to the Senate floor for a vote, and Senator Leahy was the head of the Judiciary Committee. It was worth a shot, I figured.

October 31st, 2010

I tried calling Senator Leahy’s office, but was not answered. Granted, it was a weekend and election day was three days away.

November 2nd, 2010

Election day. The House becomes Republican, while the Senate remains Democratic (although to a lesser degree). The reviewing of COICA has been pushed to a later date.

November 12th, 2010

The Judicial Committee markup of COICA has been scheduled for November 18th. Time is growing shorter. My teacher noted that the committee had not called in experts on the subject to testify for both sides of the bill (at least according to the Judicial Committee website‘s logs)

November 16th, 2010

I managed to get in contact with a member of Senator Leahy’s staff. I tried to ask what the views on the bill were among committee members, the likelihood of its passing, etc. , but the staff member merely told me that there were “thirteen co-sponsors,” that it had “bi-partisan approval,” and that “any other information on the bill could be found at Thomas.LOC.gov.” It wasn’t as helpful a call as I would have liked, but it told me where the bill stood, for the most part.

I called Senator Specter’s local office and left a personal message regarding my stance on the bill, along with my name and address. I didn’t think it would change his views on the bill (as he was a co-sponsor himself), but it was worth a try.

Additionally, a professor at Temple University, along with law professors at over fifty other prominent colleges, drafted and signed a letter stating their disgust with the bill. Here’s an excellent quote:

The Act, if enacted into law, will not survive judicial scrutiny, and will, therefore, never be used to address the problem (online copyright and trademark infringement) that it is designed to address.  Its significance, therefore, is entirely symbolic – and the symbolism it presents is ugly and insidious… Even more significant and more troubling, the Act represents a retreat from the United States’ historical position as a bulwark and beacon against censorship and other threats to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and the free exchange of information and ideas around the globe.

At least now I know that I’m not just overlooking some political stipulations and actually have some sort of valid argument.

Update

I received an email from Senator Leahy’s representative.

Mr. Hlal,

Here is a link to the press release on Senator Leahy’s website regarding the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.  The two bullet points below are from that press release and directly address your questions.  Thank you for your inquiry.

http://leahy.senate.gov/press/press_releases/release/?id=e26c01c9-e291-4bd3-9912-80dca46a75f6

  • Provide safeguards allowing the domain name owner or site operator to petition the court to lift the order;
  • Provide safeguards against abuse by allowing only the Justice Department to initiate an action, and by giving a federal court the final say about whether a particular site would be cut off from supportive services.

Well, first of all, that’s not my name, but it’s close enough. At any rate, it was nice of them to follow up with me. I’m still left without an answer with regards to due process, though.

November 18th, 2010.

The bill passed with a 19-o vote through the Judicial committee. Now I can only hope that it gets voted down in the Senate floor or that it is placed far enough back in the agenda that it doesn’t get time to be voted on until after January, when the 111th congress comes to an end.

November 20th, 2010

Apparently, Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, vehemently spoke out against the bill. He is quoted as having said the following:

“Deploying this statute to combat online copyright infringement seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile.”

My sentiments exactly, Senator Wyden. I’d like to call his office in the near future to confirm this quote and to thank him.

November 24th

I left a thank-you message at the office of Senator Wyden. I figure my voice, coming all the way from Pittsburgh, will show that his efforts aren’t going unnoticed.

November 29th

Today, the Department of Homeland Security seized over 70 domains, effectively doing what COICA was going to do anyways. Looks like my voice is having little effect in changing the government. Many of the sites seized weren’t in any sort of violation of copyright laws, containing no torrents, trackers, or illegal files of any sort. The Department of Homeland Security is refusing to say more than minor comments. I simply have to wait. And write more blog posts, of course.

MacX Pro Video Converter: Free! (for now)

I just got an email from a small web-based software company, Digiarty, that is giving away full copies of their video converting software to celebrate the launch of their latest website, MacX. Essentially, it takes a variety of video formats (including Mac-specific ones like .MOV, as well as PC-specific ones, like .WMV and .AVI) and converts them into any variety of formats, including pre-made “templates” (like “iPhone” or “Apple TV”).

Here’s a clip from the email:

MacXDVD Software (www.macxdvd.com) is our new website which mainly focuses on Mac products, but also with

Windows version included. For the coming Thanksgiving, we are running giveaway on both Mac and Windows version of MacX Video Converter Prountil Nov 15. So I am writing to see if you would be interested in this giveaway and share this giveaway news or review it on your site.

The Giveaway Page: http://www.macxdvd.com/mac-video-converter-pro/

Built in 420+ video/audio codecs and advanced HD video decoding engine, MacX Video Converter Pro owns powerful capabilities to convert among all HD video and SD videos and transfer to Mac, PC, iMovie, iTunes, iPhone iPad, iPod, etc.

It also enables users to download YouTube videos and convert to other format or create VOB files from video for burning to DVD.

How to Get MacX Video Converter Pro for Free

1.     For Mac users, download the full version of MacX Video Converter Pro by click “Download for Mac” button, and use the license code: AY-DSJGNKY-6E7E777

2.     For Windows users, download the full version of MacX HD Video Converter Pro for Windows by click “Download for Windows” button, and use the license code: BO-UMUJUMYT-FBOBXO

MacX Giveaway Page

FREE Rapidshare Pro Account/Rapids!

Alright. I’m getting tons of hits to an old article I wrote regarding a site that gives away free rapidshare accounts. That site has long been down, leading people to a parked domain. I felt horribly dumb.

So, to make up for that, I’m giving away FREE Rapidshare Rapids! First place receives 1,000 Rapids, and two second place winners will receive 500 Rapids.

Here’s what you need to do to enter:

Digg this page, Tweet this page, Stumble this page, or share this page however you like. Here, let me help you.

Click “ShareThis” and explore your options.

Now that you’ve done THAT, post a comment with a link to how you shared it (For example, if you posted this page on Reddit, comment with a link to the post).

If you share it in more than one way, post more than one comment. You CAN win more than one prize, though I’m not sure how likely that will be (depending on how many people sign up).  That being said, give it a shot! What do you have to lose, right?

Deadline

The deadline to register for this is December 1st, or as soon as 20 people sign up, whichever comes last. So, invite people!

Rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated…

…But that’s not to say I’m not dead. Mentally, at least. I’ve been sculpting my gleaming, pristine Carnegie Mellon University application (I’m applying for Computer Science and Computer Engineering), leading to much non-posting in the past month or so. So, so sorry about that. For anyone who reads my blog, I owe you for sticking around. Big time.

Alright, I feel like I owe it to you to get you caught up with what I’ve been doing recently.

Team Fortress 2

For one, Team Fortress 2 has a Halloween Event. They released a new map, “Mann Mansion,” in which presents containing masks appear periodically, and a “Horseless Headless Horsemann” shows up and rampages around the map for a bit. It’s a lot of fun. Collect all 9 masks and you can craft them into a super mask which lasts beyond November 7th (the end of the event). There’s a few more achievements that have been added. I have to say, I’ve had fun with it. It’s a good way to take a break from all the writing and editing for these essays.

Minecraft

Ohhh wow. I feel awful. I ranted and raved about Minecraft, and yet I haven’t tried out their new update. Notch, the guy who made the game, added “Hell.” That’s right. Dig down deep enough, or walk through a portal… and you wind up in hell. :D

Here’s all the great things he added in the update.

Also, I’m going to hack my Wii. More on that soon.

Cheers,
Salem.