PublishedMay 12, 2011

Senators Reintroduce Internet Censorship Bill Under New Name

Senators Leahy, Hatch and Grassley are reintroducing legislation, which will impose a mandate on additional industries to enforce copyright laws. Instead of COICA, the new acronym appears to sound less controversial – PROTECT IP.

Like COICA, the new legislation would have the Attorney General serve court orders demanding credit card companies, ad networks and domain name servers stop doing business with sites that the US Government identifies as dedicated to copyright infringement. The new bill would also lean on search engines to eliminate allegedly offending sites from search results.

Another new feature is that the plaintiff complaining of infringement would be able to get a court order themselves to demand other businesses help shut down sites where people can illegally obtain material like copyrighted music, movies and software.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, which is dedicated to fighting Internet filtering and censorship overseas and in the United States as well as using reasonable means to protect intellectual property, said the new legislation would be more aptly named the Internet Censorship and Control Act.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“The United States Government should not be in the business of choosing what Internet content is acceptable and censoring that which it deems is not.  Meddling with Internet architecture to disappear sites and even hyperlinks to those sites is an Orwellian approach to law enforcement.  The solution to violations of intellectual property law is to enforce the law, not to engage in dangerous and fruitless efforts to sanitize the Internet.”

“CCIA represents companies that are intellectual property rightsholders as well as companies that would be co-opted into law enforcement duties under this measure. So while we support rightsholders and content providers making a fair profit, we can’t support Draconian measures that would break the Internet – especially when there are so many existing remedies to get infringing removed from the Internet.

“While we understand senators are trying to deliver results that big content providers lobbied hard for, this legislation will do little to really solve copyright infringement. This directive may look different than Egypt or China’s Internet filtering and censorship. But technologically speaking shutting down parts of the Internet, even for a seemingly good reason, is still censorship – no matter what new name you give it. This bill would send a signal to Internet restricting countries that they can make similar demands and use similar tools – only for more sinister reasons.

“Another dangerous precedent is the way the bill encourages credit card companies, search engines and other intermediaries to voluntarily take possibly capricious action ahead of a court order — and they would receive immunity if it turns out later that the domain in question was not doing anything wrong.

“We must also discourage attempts to deputize online intermediaries into law enforcement.  If the United States cannot defend and maintain a free and open Internet, we cannot expect that any other nation will do so. Proposals to require Internet communication services to block domains or censor search results ahead of any sort of due process in court set a dangerous precedent here and a risky model for Internet governance abroad.”

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