What Else Might COICA Be Used To Censor

from the it's-not-just-the-pirate-bay dept

Earlier this week, I put together a list of some of the technologies that a law like COICA might have banned in the past, noting that when they first came out, legacy industries condemned them as being “dedicated to infringing activities,” which is the basis that the Justice Department would get to ban websites under COICA, in some cases with little or no due process. But some people have pointed out that it’s worth pointing out some modern technologies that the entertainment industry is still trying to ban via lawsuit, which could potentially fit under the definitions in the law as well. For example:

  • YouTube: While Viacom claims it’s now okay with YouTube thanks to its ContentID system, if you read over Viacom’s filings in the lawsuit, they make it clear that they believe YouTube was “dedicated to infringing activities.” It’s not hard to see that, if COICA had been around five years ago, there would be no YouTube today.
  • Music lockers: As I mentioned recently, I’ve been playing around with a few music lockers, as a way of storing and backing up my (legal, authorized) music collection, and as a way to access it on the go. I can’t see how it’s infringing for me to make use of my own music in such a manner, but as we’ve seen with EMI’s lawsuit against Michael Robertson and the MP3tunes locker, some record labels believe such things are “dedicated to infringing activities.” Does it seem reasonable that the Justice Department can just block access to a site that lets me store my own music?
  • Music search engines: Remember Seeqpod? It was a really useful search engine for music. It didn’t store or transmit any music itself, but simply acted as Google. Warner Music and EMI both sued the company, forcing it to declare bankruptcy (and bizarrely, it was just bought by a DRM company). With a law like COICA, it would be even easier for the record labels and their former lawyers in the Justice Department to simply shut down really useful tools like Seeqpod.

And that’s just the start. It’s not difficult to think of all sorts of services that are coming out these days that are derided by anti-visionary industry lawyers as “dedicated to infringing activities.” Do we really want to allow the federal government and a bunch of lawyers to kill off these technologies, without a lawsuit, and without a chance to demonstrate that they do a lot more than help people infringe?

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Comments on “What Else Might COICA Be Used To Censor”

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Craig (profile) says:

The Neanderthals of the Digital Age

By the time all of these traditional media companies “figure it out” the real world will have left them behind. For the first time in my life, I revel at the idea at something going extinct. Let’s start with the music industry and then the movie industry…newspapers and magazines shouldn’t be too far behind.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: The Neanderthals of the Digital Age

“By the time all of these traditional media companies “figure it out” the real world will have left them behind.”

For the music industry the final straw will be someone figuring out the promotion piece. Its the last thing they have going for them.

For the news papers and magazines its already over and they are dead men walking. The disruption has already happened and is moving at an ever accelerating rate up through the age groups. They have at most 20 years.

For TV studios its a combination of the internet removing the artificial +-100 channel limit cable has, online groups getting together to create content, and on demand from netflix hulu etc.

The movie studios have a better chance as they provide a group experience in the theaters. Something that a home theater system cannot provide.

All in all I agree with your comment “For the first time in my life, I revel at the idea at something going extinct.” I just worry about the damage they are going to do as they fail.

jc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This actually brings up a question I’ve been interested in. Typically when you purchase a business you also inherit its liability; but, what happens when you someone like Google buys a business like YouTube.

I’d be willing to bet that almost none of the code running on YouTube today was being used on YouTube 5 years ago; however, what if it was even more extreme than that? What if Google had bought YouTube only for the domain name and had replaced all of their code outright on day 1? Did they actually buy YouTube, or just the brand? Perhaps a better way to look at it is – should a company that starts using another businesses name, assuming the old business agrees, be responsible for the actions of the old business? Why?

Danny says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Interesting question. I think it would come down to whether or not the “new management” could actually verify that they have changed things up so to the point that they should not be held responsible for the “old management”.

Here’s another question in relation to what you say about branding.

When Google bought YouTube should they be able to selectively claim the good hype of YouTube’s old management while claiming they should not be held responsible for the bad hypes of YouTube’s old management?

Mike C. (profile) says:

It's so much worse...

And I quote:

… including by offering or providing access to, without the authorization of the copyright owner or otherwise by operation of law, copies of, or public performance or display of, works protected by title 17, in complete or substantially complete form, by any means, including by means of download, transmission, or otherwise, including the provision of a link or aggregated links to other sites or Internet resources for obtaining such copies for accessing such performance or displays;
(emphasis mine)


Forget whether or not the the site itself is infringing directly. Based on that bit of text, the Justice Department can shut it down if it even offers a link to infringement. Heck, taken to the extreme, even a link to thepiratebay.org main page would be enough to get a site shut down.

This is horrendously crafted legislation. Senator Leahy and his cohorts should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t think you people really see the scope of the problem here.

Is not just the entertaiment industry, every other industry will make use of that to curtail competition.

Remember the state that wanted to ban horse racing sites?
Now they can.

If big pharma see a website offering a cheaper alternative could they not deem them pirates too?

People using craiglist to offer anything is not doing harm to another stabilized business lets say real state agents?

The law is so out of touch and ambiguous that it can be used by everyone who don’t like what others are doing, this is not only the internet that is going to be affected and when it can’t for some reason it will get expanded eroding ever further competition, innovation, free speech and freedoms that were gained with the blood of many people who fought to get to that point.

Anonymous Coward says:

This law could be used to take out the website of monks in Lousiana too, essentially anybody trying to sell/exchange anything can be caught up on the net.

Amazon could get a piece of the action on the receiving end, Craiglist, many of the sharing sites that have appeared over the years that make it easier for people to exchange or lend stuff, legal free music/books/movies websites, fan based websites, manufacturing websites that offer their services to others etc, all of that could be harmed by such a law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Every other industry is thinking of a way to stablish copyright on their goods and services or to make something akin to it in some form, copyright is so pernicious that is invading every aspect of business today, there is only one solution to the problem and that is to end it all or face the consequences 20 years down the road.

Why only artists have the right to control their products once it gets sold and have the right to claim money from derivative works when nobody else can?

Unless that is rectified other will push hard to make it so in their own business, it is not fair that one part of society have more privileges than others so they will try to expand to them too, but those things doesn’t work on the real world it will bring attrition and misery and only stupid people can’t see that.

Can people imagine having to pay the manufacturer of your house or car for having it repaired? or resold?

Can people imagine what it would be like to have to pay levies for every manufacturing industry under the sun?

That is exactly the world some would like to see you live in, will you let them do that to you and your children?

Anonymous Coward says:

Twitter has many accounts that are basically a RSS for torrents. I don’t see why this law wouldn’t ban Twitter. Google Books is also to the eyes of the book distribution industry used for infringing activities. And wordpress was mentioned at one point as being a tool for “stealing” from newspapers. All the internet may be find at some point or another to be a tool for infringement. And don’t get me started on 4chan… this law is as absurd as it is dangerous.

R. Miles (profile) says:

I can’t see how it’s infringing for me to make use of my own music in such a manner…
How many times must you be reminded: You don’t own the music you bought.

You don’t own software, books, TV shows, movies, or any other created works. You’re licensing them.

Therefore, if the license says “Thou shalt not copy, store, use between 7am-4pm, spin, alter, deform, post online, or anything else I deem you shouldn’t do.”, then you have no choice but to follow the license.

As it stands today, especially.

Or did people forget about the Autodesk v. Vernor case?

SCOTUS can doom us all, especially if they agree with the lower court to say their hands are tied because of the LICENSE agreement.

Own. What a silly concept.

Paul Keating (profile) says:


There are many things wrong with COICA. However, most of the comments focus on the 1st part (dealing with court orders). The 2nd part is even more draconian. The Justice Dept. can merely declare a site to be “dedicated” and place it on a black list. To get off the list YOU must prove them wrong. They need only say yes/no. No need to give reasons. Ordinary PPC sites would never qualify given the limited reasons for removal stated in the Bill.

To challenge the JD’s decision (not to remove you from the list), YOU must file a lawsuit in DC within a very short period of time or forever waive your right to do so. The suite must be filed by an INDIVIDUAL. If you file and if you are a foreigner, you open yourself to any type of other claim by submitting to the jurisdiction of the US. IF you file the action, the court is allowed to make a summary determination (judgment on the pleadings) based upon your challenge and what the JD provides. At that point, however, the JD can provide the entire file and not just the decision it gave you.

AND, the last section is the best. It directs (not authorizes) the JD to provide all kinds of assistance to claimants (IP rights holders) but provides no assistance for respondents.

What is the harm of the black-list? Anyone remember our good friend McCarthy? What registrar/ISP/Hosting company would not simply lock a domain just because it is on the list? Their liability is limited (by contract with the domain registrant) to the registration fee and that is a cheap price to pay in the face of being sued by the “claimants” who will no doubt argue that service providers had actual knowledge because the domain appeared on the public black-list.

The entire Bill is a silly attempt to protect the pharma and music industry. It would, for example, shut down Canada Drug (an online pharmacy where they fill valid prescriptions for US residents) because they are not licensed in the US. People like my 85 year old mother will now be forced to pay 10X in the US for the same drug.

I have trouble when government tells me where I can and cannot go to shop – something about freedom of association ring a bell? There are already laws to deal with illegal pharmas etc. That the claimants argue they are “too cumbersome” is no reason to pass such a law. If it were, then I would suspect next in line would be law enforcement who would argue that things like obtaining search warrants, reading Mirranda rights, or sharing evidence with defense counsel are “burdensome”. The Constitution was not created to make things easy for government (or others). It was in fact created to make things more difficult with the clear goal of protecting the rights of the individuals against the POTENTIAL for abuse.

rory says:

If there was a stage act in the middle of a town square, and they then discovered that people were watching the show from their upstairs windows, they shouldn’t then be able to force everyone to shutter their windows. They should have to move the show.

It is up to the content producers to innovate their way past piracy.

Software manufacturers: require a live connection.

Musicians: Play live shows.

Movie makers: Make all movies 3D, and for God’s sake, stop putting half an hour of ads at the beginning of DVDs.

Regardless of the eventual solution, copyright infringement is clearly not a cause worthy of implementing blacklists and online censorship.

John Paul Jones says:

You people are the worst.

Who do you think you’re kidding?

All you want is to be able to take music and movies for free.

While the people that labor over these creations lose their jobs and are unable to continue in the creation process.

Your phony fear-mongering and lying is disgusting.

You ALL should be ashamed of yourselves.

1st Amendment Rights says:

Re: Re:

I think you’ve seen one too many entertainment industry propaganda videos. If this really was about people losing their jobs, the entertainment industry would help support the unions that work with them.

If it was about stopping copyright infringement alone, they would simply go after the distributors, and continue their endless campaign of fining everyone from the elderly and disabled to stay at home moms.

Most average people, including several of the architects of the Internet, think this goes much deeper. Looking back at the past 10 years at the governments abuses of the powers given to it, I think its time to think twice before giving it a carte blanche for censorship.

There is more than one way to burn a book.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Are you kidding me right now? Don’t even start on the whole, “lose their jobs” b.s. Take Lady Gaga for example…as much as I hate her, she has a large fan base. Obviously people are going to download her music like crazy, illegally and legally. But do you see her going downhill at all? NO! You see her at the top of the charts. Downloading illegally can sometimes be used as a great marketing tool. For me, I download to see if I like it first, if I do, then I will go out and purchase it. On another note, research further into the bill before posting, it doesn’t just affect movies and music buddy…

Anonymous Coward says:

One of the core issues here that has been ignored is legal content that is shared on P2P websites.

It’s hard to keep all sites 100% infringement free all the time (YouTube, for example, has to take down videos constantly). This will make it much more difficult for people who want to exchange free content such as free documentaries, free books, documents or open source software. I guess the the entertainment industries don’t want competition from free lance or classic artists or authors either.

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