Patrick Leahy Against Internet Censorship In Other Countries, But All For It At Home

from the hypocrite dept

We already wrote about yesterday's proposal, from Senators Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch, for a law to censor and block any website that is deemed to mainly support copyright infringing behavior, under the misleading name "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act" (note the conflation of counterfeiting and infringement, yet again). Still, I did want to to post the full text of the bill, for those who wanted to see just how troubling it is:
It seems particularly troubling that sites can be blocked if they have "no demonstrable, commercially significant purpose." As if there's no such thing as having non-commercially significant purposes.

But a bigger point is just how hypocritical the Senators supporting this bill really are. Reader Dark Helmet already did a nice job highlighting the massive conflicts of interest among many of the Senators supporting this bill -- including the fact that lead sponsor Patrick Leahy has among his top campaign contributors the TV/Movie/Music industries, with Time Warner, Walt Disney and Vivendi showing up near the top of the list. But, I'm sure that's got nothing whatsoever to do with this bill...

What strikes me as much more ridiculous is that Senator Leahy has been one of the more outspoken Senators against other countries censoring or filtering websites. Just a few months ago he gave a statement at a Senate hearing condemning regimes that censor the internet. And yet, just a few months later, he's trying to be the regime censoring the internet:
One of the most pressing challenges posed by the Internet is the censorship of online information. For some time now, we have witnessed the troubling efforts of repressive regimes -- such as the governments of China, Iran and North Korea -- to censor, or in some cases eliminate, their citizens' access to information via the Internet. Most Americans are by now very familiar with the troubling reports that the government of China has hacked into the private e-mail accounts of human rights activists. We must address these serious challenges to freedom of expression head-on.

The early advances of the Internet originated in the United States, and the world rightly looks to us for leadership on matters of Internet freedom. I am very pleased that, last month, Secretary Clinton boldly reaffirmed our Nation's deep commitment to openness and freedom of expression on the Internet. The Obama administration has taken a decisive and important step.

America must also take the lead in protecting those who simply provide a platform for Internet speech from liability for the content of online speech generated by others. Our Federal laws already do this. And we must work with other nations to find the best way to promote free and open Internet speech around the globe.
Read that, and then realize that he's proposing to do exactly what he's condemning those other countries for doing. He's using the power of the government to "censor, or in some cases eliminate, their citizens' access to information via the Internet." Some will claim that this is somehow a "different kind" of information, in that copyright infringement is "harmful." But, of course, the governments of China, Iran and North Korea all feel that the information they're censoring is equally "harmful."

Filed Under: censorship, free speech, patrick leahy


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 21 Sep 2010 @ 5:12pm

    Re:

    A hypocrite? I am not so quick to attach the label.

    If it's accurate, why not?

    No matter how many who frequent this site may feel about copyright law, the fact remains it is firmly embraced within our body of national laws and will remain there into the distant future.

    No one said otherwise. But this is not about copyright. This is about censorship. Copyright law is in place -- we agree. So the actions of users of these sites is already illegal. So that's set.

    The problem here is that this law has nothing to do with copyright, and everything to do with censorship of sites that the industry doesn't like.

    I find it odd that someone such as yourself, who is always so careful to be quite specific would conflate copyright with taking down sites without due process.

    Odd.

    To equate copyright law with censorship of political speech is over the top

    But this is censorship. Blatant censorship.

    to call the Senators hycoprites because they express views against the censorship in foreign countries of speech that suppresses political dissent and discourse is unfair

    Not at all. The issue is identical. I can't think of a single difference other than the politicians elsewhere don't like a different kind of speech.

    Say what you will of copyright law, but I for one will not buy into the "hypocrites" argument presented here until such time as political dissent in the US is likewise attempted to be suppressed.

    I see. So censorship is fine for you as long as it's speech you dislike. Sickening. Hypocrite.

    Candidly, this is little more than an attempt to draw a ludicrous analogy morroring that between people who have no compunction about illegal copying and distribution because "I want my music and/or movie now!" and Rosa Parks saying "I want this bus seat!"

    Your total ignorance and confusion on the issue is duly noted.

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