PublishedMay 26, 2011

Senate Judiciary Committee Embraces French Proposal for Internet Regulation

Within 48 hours of French President Sarkozy proposing sweeping international regulation of the Internet at the eG-8 meeting, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill allowing the U.S. Department of Justice to blacklist Internet sites and regulate certain industries having contact with those sites.

The newly introduced S. 968 is a stronger version of the controversial, Hollywood-backed COICA bill that was blocked last year. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved it today a voice vote during a meeting that was closed to the public.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, which fights Internet filtering and censorship at home and abroad, opposes this approach to Internet regulation.

“We had feared that the U.S. Government might backslide toward the French approach to Internet regulation that was rejected so emphatically earlier this week, but we didn’t expect it this soon,” said CCIA President & CEO Ed Black.

“At a time when U.S. businesses are increasing confronted with barriers to Internet trade and censorship abroad, a government committed to Internet openness should not be in the business of blacklisting Internet sites,” Black added.

The Protect IP Act (PIPA, S. 968) proposes to empower the U.S. Attorney General, and in some cases private copyright owners to obtain court orders requiring the blocking of sites that meet a broad statutory definition of “dedicated to infringing activities”.  Sites that may be subject to this regulation include domain name servers, search engines and other sites using directories, indexes, or hyperlinks, payment processors, and advertising networks.

The bill was blocked last year after prominent Internet scientists and engineers warned it would break the Internet. Several released another report  explaining the risks to the Internet itself if domains were blocked in this way and search results are manipulated to erase results that could contain infringing material.

Black published an op ed in the San Francisco Chronicle this week warning of the risks to the Internet with this legislation that will, unfortunately, in the end fail to block the problem of online infringement.

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