Son Of COICA: PROTECT IP Act Will Allow For Broad Censorship Powers, Even Granted To Copyright Holders
from the censorship dept
As expected, it appears that a new version of COICA is on its way, and it looks like those behind it have ramped up their efforts to make the positioning sound better. Rather than COICA, it’s been renamed the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act” or the…. PROTECT IP Act (don’t gag). And, rather than actually taking into account the concerns many had with COICA, this new bill is even more draconian, in that it has a private right of action. That is, beyond just letting the Justice Department declare that a site is “rogue” and then getting a court order that would require all sorts of third parties censor that site, this new law will also let rights holders take action. That is, unlike COICA, PROTECT IP has a “private right of action.”
The Act similarly authorizes a rights holder who is the victim of the infringement to bring an action against the owner, registrant, or Internet site dedicated to infringement, whether domestic or foreign, and seek a court order against the domain name registrant, owner, or the domain name.
To try to make this palatable, the bill says that the court’s permission is needed to serve such an order (though, these kinds of things are frequently rubber stamped) and it will only apply to payment processors and ad networks, rather than ISPs and search engines. The DOJ version, however, can apply against ISPs, search engines, ad providers and payment processors.
Oh, and if you noticed that “search engines” included in there and wondered, yes, that’s different from COICA as well. Beyond just requiring these other service providers from blocking service, this new law will require search engines to censor sites out of their index.
The bill claims it includes “safeguards,” but those “safeguards” are that after the court order has been issued and all the third party service providers (payment process, ad networks, ISPs, search engines) have been required to block service to the site, the site can “petition the court to suspend or vacate the order.” That seems a bit late in the process, doesn’t it?
Since we’ve seen many of the “seized” domains simply move to new sites, the PROTECT IP Act also says that any site that just moves to a new domain, the same draconian censorship requirements apply to those new sites as well. On top of that, it pressures online service providers to voluntarily censor, saying that such services are “immunized from damages” for taking action against a site they believe is “dedicated to infringing activities.”
Oh, one area where the law backs down is that it no longer focuses on seizing domains. That is, it no longer talks about requiring registrars and registers to be subject to this law. But the reason they’ve done so is because they say that Homeland Security’s successful domain seizing means that such powers would be redundant…
Once again, what we have here is a terrible bill that provides for broad censorship power not just to the government, but potentially to private companies as well, against sites which they accuse of being dedicated to infringement.