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."

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Sep 2010 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hack job

    "Having no commercial significance"

    How is this different from "having a substantial non-infringing use", the "test" borrowed from patent law by the court in the Betamax case?

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