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Govt Plans to Expand Internet Censorship Powers

Govt Plans to Expand Internet Censorship Powers

Would give DOJ the power to force US based third-parties, including ISPs, payment processors, online advertising network providers, and search engines to either block access to infringing sites or cease doing business with it. Copyright holders would also get additional tools to target infringing sites.

After years of failed efforts to eliminate online piracy copyright holders are trying a different plan of attack these days by eliminating freedom of movement on the Internet instead.

After having already seized more than 100 domain names so far as part of the ongoing “Operation in Our Sites,” legislators are pushing a proposal that would dramatically escalate that effort.

The “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011,” or the “PROTECT IP Act,” would give the DOJ and copyright holders additional tools against copyright infringing websites.

In the case of a DOJ-initiated suit, the Attorney General can force US based third-parties, including ISPs, payment processors, online advertising network providers, and search engines to either block access the site or cease doing business with it.

A copyright holder-initiated suit is limited to payment processors and online advertising network providers, and exempts ISPs and search engines.

The PROECT IP Act talks about “safeguards” like allowing domain name operators or site owners to petition the court to have the orders vacated, but it still occurs after the fact and the damage done. It’s akin to being sentenced before trial.

Search engine filtering is what should make everyone sit up and take notice. It ostensibly means that search engines could find themselves forced down a slippery slope of filtering all kinds of illegal material and sites. Online gambling is illegal in the US, for example; would these sites be next? What about sites that promote drug usage or other illegal behavior?

Keep in mind also that this is all without the benefit of due process. Site owners from around the world would find themselves in an untenable situation of having to make the costly and arduous trek to a US courtroom to defend themselves, and against all manner of copyright holder accusations big and small.

Worse still is that the Act encourages voluntary filtering and sanctions by immunizing from damages “actions taken against an Internet site where they have a good faith on credible evidence it is dedicated to infringing activities.”

Stay tuned.

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