Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, says the Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act is the “wrong medicine” for battling online copyright infringement, and argues that if not done properly the “collateral damage would be American innovation, American jobs, and a secure Internet.”
If ever there were a modern day hero it may just be Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, who has vowed to block the controversial Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act as it is currently written.
After having sailed out of the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary by unanimous vote many, myself included, began to worry that our elected officials would ignore the vast majority of the population that opposes the COICA.
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,” but Senator Wyden says it is the “wrong medicine” to cure the problem.
“Deploying this statute to combat online copyright infringement seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile,” he said at Senate Subcommittee meeting on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness. “If you don’t think this thing through carefully, the collateral damage would be American innovation, American jobs, and a secure Internet.”
An individual Senator can place a hold on pending legislation or even prevent a roll call vote from taking place by engaging in debate and refusing to yield the floor – i.e. filibuster. This means the COICA is effectively dead at least until the next Congress convenes.
It’s worth noting that Senator Wyden was recently reelected for a fourth term and so will be around for at least another six years.
Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, also testified at the hearing and said he thought that the “significance and implications of the legislation…have been well thought through.”
With U.S. companies being, as he says, “leading vendors of information products and services,” it’ll be hard to convince other countries of the need to end “information discrimination” if we have similar policies of our own.
“CCIA members report that approximately 40 governments now engage in broad-scale online censorship,” he said. “At times the motivation for censorship is self-evident, or is disclosed, but generally the processes and reasons for censoring Internet services and content are opaque. With few exceptions, states do not attempt to justify blocking or unblocking Internet content or services, and restrictions are not developed in a transparent manner.”
By blocking entire foreign domain names, not just the infringing pages, and most likely without due process of law, the US will be undermining its own case for expanding market access for US for digital products and services.
So let’s all take a moment and thank Senator Wyden for his opposition to the COICA.