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PROTECT-IP or control freaks? Monster Cable blacklists Sears, Facebook as rogue sites

Oct 06, 20115 mins
Data and Information SecurityData CenterMicrosoft

In favor of PROTECT-IP, Monster Cable blacklisted 1,000 'rogue sites' like legitimate Sears and Costco. Others blacklisted include eBay, Craigslist, ComputerShopper, PriceGrabber and TwitPic which Monster later used in a tweet. But by listing Facebook as a rogue site, yet linking to it become a "fan," seems to say more about Monster being a control freak than being interested in enforcing PROTECT-IP.

While PROTECT-IP attempts to address serious issues like online copyright enforcement and trademark infringement, the expansive way DNS server is defined as well as plans to block “rogue sites” could damage the free Internet or civil liberties. Rep. Zoe Lofgren recently called the DNS site-blocking provisions “a mess” and “a disaster” that will “do actual damage to the Internet itself.” Instead of the “potentially damaging” blocking of sites, Lofgren suggested that “follow the money” is the right way to do it. And so I did after reviewing a ludicrous list of alleged “blacklisted rogue sites” that seemed to be more about a corporation trying to control legitimate sites.

In favor of PROTECT-IP (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property): David Tognotti, General Counsel of Monster Cable, claimed on the Copyright Alliance Blog that Monster Cable “has lost ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ to counterfeits.” Tognotti added, “Our brand is respected by consumers worldwide. Rogue web sites are stealing the good will we’ve built, and siphoning off sales.”

So I checked it out and for the love of #$&@*% !!! Monster Cable has an uber long list of at least 1,000blacklisted sites” on its corporate website. As if that’s not enough, there is an additional warning of * Beware! not all sites selling counterfeit products are listed!

Seriously, Monster, Sears? It’s a legitimate site! Others blacklisted by Monster include Costco, ComputerShopper, eBay, Craigslist, and plenty of find-the-best-deal sites like PriceGrabber and FatWallet. If that’s not enough to fall in the WTF category, then how about this?

Monster Cable: If your company intends to take up the PROTECT-IP flag and wave it around wildly, then you might consider following your own advice. For example, the company tweeted a link to TwitPic, yet is allegedly a rogue site that was “blacklisted.” Below is the tweet along with a cropped portion of the company’s blacklisted sites.

Then Facebook, huh? Hello? Is this the same Facebook as listed on the corporate site as “follow Monster” yet is also a blacklisted rogue site according to Monster?

So which is it and what does that make a company which tweets or links to “rogue sites?” PROTECT-IP could allow the government to vaporize sites that it determines are “guilty” of infringing activities. ISPs could then block access to those “blacklisted” by removing their registration with the Domain Name System (DNS). In other words, if you entered the URL in your browser, a blank page would come up for that site. The Protect IP Act says that all hyperlinks to the offending ‘Internet site’ must be deleted. Isn’t Monster Cable directly linking to Facebook which the company alleges is a blacklisted rogue site?

It’s not the first time to see such an expansive blacklist. GroupM, the world’s largest ad agency, controls about $6 billion in digital media annually, and came out with a mind-boggling list earlier this year before sharing the “full list of 2279 domains with TorrentFreak.”

TechDirt was apparently so appalled that it wrote two posts about Monster Cable rearing “its astronomically-priced head to decry the global impact of pirated goods.” As TechDirt points out, “If you look at both the GroupM and the Monster lists, one thing becomes clear: these companies are defining any site they can’t control as being a ‘rogue site.’ This isn’t about stopping ‘piracy.’ It’s about using the law to stomp out channels that they can’t control.”

Ironically, while the government and some politicians can’t seem to “hear” the shouts of “PIPA is unconstitutional,” they hear everything the RIAA and MPAA has said about PIPA. This summer ZeroPaid blogged about the RIAA’s ridiculous bait-and-switch to convince the “public that its own selfish commercial interests are really for the public good.”

Right or wrong, if the MPAA and RIAA is for something, then I’m pretty much against it because it’s probably taking a free Internet in a dangerous direction. For example, “160 entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs and executives who have been involved in 349 technology start-ups, and who have created over 65,000 jobs directly through our companies and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more through the technologies we invented, funded, brought to market and made mainstream” all signed Entrepreneurs Worried About PIPA. Oh but the MPAA said the “anti-PROTECT-IP” group, “got its facts wrong.”

This summer a group of Internet law professors wrote a letter stating the PROTECT-IP is unconstitutional. The EFF asked for our help to help kill PROTECT-IP. But there are people all over the board on this one. Big Brother’s pet name for PROTECT-IP is PIPA. Microsoft definitely backs PROTECT-IP and said the Act is “aimed at providing new tools to challenge the proliferation of ‘rogue sites’ — Internet sites that are dedicated to infringing content or counterfeit goods.” While I’m not suggesting to pirate anything, I’m not a fan of censorship. I have nothing against Monster Cable personally, but the “rogue site blacklist” double-standard is ridiculous in the extreme. By blacklisting legitimate sites like Sears and Costco, Monster’s list screams more about “control freak” than wicked rogues to me.

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.