A bill giving the government the power to shut down Web sites that host materials that infringe copyright is making its way quietly through the lame-duck session of Congress, raising the ire of free-speech groups and prompting a group of academics to lobby against the effort.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) was introduced in Congress this fall by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). It would grant the federal government the power to block access to any Web domain that is found to host copyrighted material without permission.

Critics say the bill is both a giveaway to the movie and recording industries and a step towards widespread and unaccountable censorship of the Internet.

Opponents note that the powers given the government under the bill are very broad. Because the bill targets domain names and not specific materials, an entire Web site can be shut down. So for example, if the US determines that there are copyright-infringing materials on YouTube, it could theoretically block access to all of YouTube, whether or not particular material being accessed infringes copyright.

If this passes (and give me a good reason why it won’t), then you know what’s next — China-style censorship for content the government doesn’t like.

  1. Publius says:

    The intellectual property police, ie, corporate police, will be the undoing of this society.

    … in the same way the last nail holds a coffin shut.

  2. Glenn E. says:

    You can also bet that Rep. Mary Bono, and Scientology, had something to do with crafting this bill. Because she’s been on the “copyrights” committee, ever since Sonny died, and she took over his slot in Congress. Killing websites that “give away” the “church”s valuable copyright course materials (mainly to warn people not to waste money on it), is top of their To-Do list. The internet has been the Church’s greatest enemy. Especially with so many former members ratting them out. This bill would help kill most criticisms of their methods and practices.

    Basically killing freedom of speech, on the internet, of just about anything with deep enough pockets to raise a stink, and fill a “copyright violation” claim. The offending websites would come down, until the court clears them. And most won’t have the time or money to fight it in court. The bill probably won’t have any protection against such frivolous claims. And there will be a huge backlog of cases. of just those who do have the money and will to fight back. So effectively, they’ll be silenced just the same.

    I hope the US Congressmen and Senators are pigsh*t happy about f*cking over the Bill of Rights.


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