Senate Committee Approves Web Censorship by Unanimous Vote

Senate Committee Approves Web Censorship by Unanimous Vote

US Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary approves the Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act by unanimous vote – 19-0.

In a blow to free speech advocates that hoped for an early demise of the controversial Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act, the US Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary has just approved by the Bill by unanimous vote – 19-0.

First proposed back in September, the COICA would give the Department of Justice an “expedited process” for cracking down on websites that illegally make copyrighted material available, including the ability to “prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services offered by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities.”

The Bill’s sponsors believe the COICA would finally give the Dept of Justice the tools it needs to track and shut down “websites devoted to providing access to unauthorized downloads, streaming or sale of copyrighted content and counterfeit goods.”

“We are proud to lend our voice to the chorus of supporters of this important bipartisan legislation,” says Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO, of the RIAA. “In a world where hackers and copyright thieves are able to take down websites, rip off American consumers and rake in huge profits operating rogue businesses built on the backs of the American creative community, the committee has taken a strong step toward fostering a more safe and secure online experience for consumers.”

Critics have criticized the legislation for being tantamount to illegal censorship of the web by placing unconstitutional prior restraints on speech with inadequate due process.

“With this first vote, Congress has begun to strike at the lifeline of foreign scam sites, while protecting free speech and boosting the legal online marketplace,” adds Bainwol.

How is Congress “protecting free speech” while blocking entire sites? How about the fact that if passed search engines like The Pirate Bay, which hosts no copyrighted material, would likely be blocked? The RIAA concluded it on its list of “notorious sites” for a reason.

There’s also the matter of the US govt setting a precedent that any country can seize or order the blocking of a domain name if some of the content on the domain (even if located elsewhere) violates the country’s local laws.

A group of 87 prominent engineers who played critical roles in the development of the Internet have said that the “legislation “will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure.”

But, none of this seems to matter to copyright holders looking to block “rogue” websites. Nevermind the fact that it will create no new revenue for the American economy since they is really none to capture. File-sharers aren’t sending money overseas since they’re downloading or streaming copyrighted content for FREE, and if the Bill does cause them to suddenly buy copyrighted material from legal sources it’s less money spent ion other areas of the US economy. It’s a zero sum game.

There’s also the pesky matter of circumvention. All you have to do is connect to your favorite proxy or VPN to bypass the filter, or simply do the easy thing and type in the domains IP address.

I guess asking Congress to focus on balancing the budget and CREATING jobs is too much to ask.

Stay tuned.

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