Senator Wyden: I Will Do Everything In My Power To Block COICA
from the good-for-him dept
Senator Ron Wyden, who has been one of the few elected officials regularly standing up for consumers and citizens rather than just rolling over for what big companies want, has again made it clear that he’s immensely troubled both by Homeland Security’s domain seizures and the plans for a new COICA bill, which he states, flat out: “I will do everything in my power to block it.” He notes that others across the political spectrum are getting more interested in this issue, because “when government seizes private property without due process, you get a lot of folks across the political spectrum coming together.”
The interview linked above is really a worthwhile read, and shows a Senator who clearly understands the deeper issues here. He notes that Homeland Security has still not responded to his list of questions about the seizures, and he thinks that’s indicative of the fact that they haven’t really thought through what they’re doing, and how it conflicts with the First Amendment and due process.
He calls the whole thing “troubling,” in that attempts are being made to broaden such seizures without realizing where they fit legally, and how they might impact the internet and commercial activity. He quickly points out why those defending the domain seizures as being no different than other forms of property seizure are off the mark:
I think it’s important to make a distinction between counterfeit goods and copyright infringement. This is right at the heart of the debate. With respect to counterfeits, the bad guys are warehousing, advertising, they’re directly selling illicit merchandise, often to unsuspecting consumers. With respect to copyrights, what constitutes willful distribution or even infringement is still unsettled law.
In addition, with respect to the illegal production or distribution of tangible goods, the government has made it clear what’s legal and what’s not. So this is an area where you’ve got a pretty bright line; when you’re talking about counterfeits, you’ve got efforts that are reasonably targeted, people understand what the ground rules are, there’s a sense that you understand what law enforcement is doing with respect to key issues like due process. That is not the case today for copyright infringement.
That’s right at the heart of this debate. I mean, when you’re seizing tangible goods, you’re not undermining the pillars of the Internet as well.
He’s also troubled by Homeland Security’s expansive definition of criminal copyright infringement that appears to include merely linking to infringing content online. As Wyden notes, this seems contrary to what most experts believe, and he’s worried that ICE seems to be making up the law:
Most reasonable Internet experts are telling us that linking itself cannot be illegal–but we’ve still got ICE out there saying, “Let’s prosecute folks for linking.” That’s another issue that needs to be resolved.
There’s plenty more in the interview, and it’s great to see at least some key politicians honestly worried about domain seizures and COICA. It’s unfortunate that it’s still a small group of them, but we’re starting to hear rumblings that as other elected officials learn about the details of all this that they, too, are troubled by it. Even as the entertainment industry has been pushing very, very hard to rush COICA through (and some believe that the votes are almost already in place), there’s a chance to speak out now and stop the US government from expanding what it believes is its right to censor websites without due process and without regard to the First Amendment’s restriction on prior restraint.