It seems the lame duck Congressional session is becoming anything but unproductive. Yesterday, we saw the cloture of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), and today the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was unanimously approved by the US Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday with a 19-0 vote. The COICA has been overwhelmingly viewed by bloggers as a corporate hijacking of the Internet by mega-media cartels. Indeed, its eventual passage will be the end of the free Internet as we know it.
The Associated Press reported on the COICA vote:
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which has the support of the entertainment industry but has been strongly criticized by digital rights and other groups, was approved by a vote of 19-0.
“Few things are more important to the future of the American economy and job creation than protecting our intellectual property,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont who co-sponsored the bill.
“That is why the legislation is supported by both labor and industry, and Democrats and Republicans are standing together,” Leahy said.
The bill gives the Justice Department an expedited process for cracking down on websites engaged in piracy or the sale of counterfeit goods including having courts issue shutdown orders against domains based outside the United States.
“Rogue websites are essentially digital stores selling illegal and sometimes dangerous products,” Leahy said. “If they existed in the physical world, the store would be shuttered immediately and the proprietors would be arrested.”
“We cannot excuse the behavior because it happens online and the owners operate overseas,” he said. “The Internet needs to be free — not lawless.”
COICA creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Courts could add sites to the first list; the Attorney General would have control over the second. Internet service providers and others (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the good favor of the government) if they block domains on the second list.
The lists are for sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” but that’s defined very broadly — any domain name where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” could be blocked.
Segal has also established a petition against this hijacking of the free internet which can be signed here. However, given that this bill passed out of committee unanimously proves that our corporate-owned public officials will surely jam this legislation down our throats. It will likely change the Internet as we know it, essentially redirecting the flow of free information to media conglomerates. The bill is proposed as a piracy protection bill where according to AP:
The US Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill on Thursday that would give US law enforcement more tools to crack down on websites abroad engaged in piracy of movies, television shows and music.
Clearly this was funded by media cartels, but this has a lot more to do with Internet censorship as it does about copyright infringement. Further, this law gives the Department of Justice power to block access to websites located outside the United States. This self-appointed global power grab is explained by activist Francis Anthony Govia:
The Justice Department will be granted power to serve court orders upon the registry where the domain name registrar is not located in the United States, and upon receipt of such an order, the domain registry must suspend operations of, and lock, the domain name of the infringing site.
During the action intended to “lock the domain name,” a court may determine, at a minimum threshold, that an Internet site is not conducting business to residents in the United States if the Internet site “states that it is not intended, and has measures to prevent, infringing materials from being accessed in or delivered to the United States,” including other provisions in subsection (d)(2)(B). The owner or operator of the “infringing site” shall also have recourse to petition the Justice Department to remove his domain name from an offending list, or petition the court to modify, suspend, or vacate the order in accordance with subsection (h)(1)(B).
This is very bad news for alternative voices and news aggregators. Although it may be futile, we encourage everyone to call the Senate switchboard and voice their strong objection to this legislation, or we and many other “truth” sites may be essentially finished. The U.S. Capitol Hill Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
Age of Censorship and Internet Trade Wars