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Stop Online Piracy Act threatens human rights activists: digital rights group

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Human rights activists and whistle blowers could be “major casualties” of a copyright protection bill proposed by the House Judiciary Committee in late October, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would make it easier for U.S. authorities to crack down on websites accused of pirating movies, television shows and music. It would allow the government and copyright owners to disable the credit card processors of sites they claim “engages in, enables or facilitates” copyright infringement.

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It would also require Internet service providers to “take technically feasible and reasonable measures” to block “rogue” sites from their customers.

The legislation is so broad it could be used to target online anonymity tools used by human rights activists, according to the EFF. The software Tor, for instance, which has been used to protect activists in Tunisia and Egypt, could be targeted because it can be used to hide one’s IP address when illegally downloading copyrighted content.

Corporations could also use SOPA to force companies to stop processing donations to whistle blower sites that post any documents that are copyrightable or contain trade secrets.

“It’s unclear whether SOPA’s authors intended it to cover these websites that are vital to whistleblowing and human rights,” Trevor Timm of the EFF said. “If they didn’t, they need to press re-set; and next time, consult with the numerous Internet communities the bill could affect, rather than exclusively Hollywood lobbyists.”

The legislation is a companion bill to the controversial PROTECT IP Act, which is currently stuck in the Senate after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) placed a hold on the bill in May.

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“I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective,” Wyden said in a statement.

Both bills are supported by businesses and organizations across the political spectrum, from labor unions to the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, to the National Association of Broadcasters and the cable industry.

In a letter to members of Congress, the powerful Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetCoalition described SOPA as a “litigation and liability nightmare for Internet and technology companies and social media.”

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‘Blow up the phones’: Demands that #BoltonMustTestify surge after new Trump’s Ukrainian aid freeze

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A day after Democratic lawmakers demanded that former National Security Adviser John Bolton testify in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, grassroots political action groups urged the American public to call their representatives and add their voices to the call for a fair trial.

"Hearing from first-hand witnesses in the Senate trial is now a necessity," tweeted the progressive group Stand Up America. "Call your senators now and demand a fair trial."

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World of slime: Here’s why President Trump likes to hang out with bottom-feeders and crooked lawyers

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Donald Trump has been a real estate developer, a TV show host, a casino owner, a politician and more. But through it all, there has been one constant: Trump has surrounded himself with sleazy characters. Oddly enough, those are exactly the people who helped propel him to becoming the 45th president of the United States.

That's the thesis of the new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo, titled aptly enough, "The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President." I spoke with Rothfeld during a recent edition of Salon Talks about the book, a veritable encyclopedia of the unsavory characters that have made Trump who he is, alongside some new reporting.

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How corporate lawyers made it harder to punish companies that destroy electronic evidence

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In the early 2000s, a series of civil lawsuits against giant corporations illustrated the disastrous consequences that could ensue if a defendant failed to provide electronic evidence such as company emails or records. In one suit against tobacco giant Philip Morris in 2004, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler concluded that the company deliberately deleted troves of emails that contained incriminating information. She fined the company $2.7 million for the breach, levied $250,000 fines against each of the company supervisors found culpable and barred them from testifying at the trial.

Big corporations rallied for changes and got them. In 2006, the rules that govern federal litigation were changed to create a “safe harbor” that would protect companies from consequences for failing to save electronic evidence as long as they followed a consistent policy and, when put on notice of imminent litigation, preserved all relevant materials.

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