How The Attempted Censorship Of File Sharing Sites Avoids Due Process

from the day-in-court? dept

We've already covered how some US Senators are pitching a bill to censor websites that are deemed centered around "infringing" uses, and noted the irony of the bill's lead sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy, decrying internet censorship in other countries. That said, the more people dig into the details, the worse this bill appears to look. The EFF does a good job highlighting many of the rather serious problems with the bill.

While most of the press coverage has discussed the process by which the Justice Department can go to a judge and get a website added to a blacklist, which ISPs and registrars will have to block, there's another part that hasn't received nearly enough attention: which is that there's an effective loophole that could allow similar blocks without judicial review:
The first is a list of all the websites hit with a censorship court order from the Attorney General. The second, more worrying, blacklist is a list of domain names that the Department of Justice determines -- without judicial review -- are "dedicated to infringing activities." The bill only requires blocking for domains in the first list, but strongly suggests that domains on the second list should be blocked as well by providing legal immunity for Internet intermediaries and DNS operators who decide to block domains on the second blacklist as well. (It's easy to predict that there will be tremendous pressure for Internet intermediaries of all stripes to block these "deemed infringing" sites on the second blacklist.)
We've seen this game in the past, of course. Generally when you provide companies immunity for sites doing something, they'll do it. So, suddenly we're taking the most basic judicial oversight out of the process of allowing the Justice Department -- which, again, is still staffed with a bunch of former entertainment industry lawyers -- choose which sites should be blocked. It's difficult to see how anyone could think this is a reasonable idea.
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Filed Under: censorship, copyright, due process, orrin hatch, patrick leahy


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  1. icon
    greenbird (profile), 24 Sep 2010 @ 9:18am

    I'm not sure people really understand what's going on here. They're not subverting the laws. They're subverting freedom of speech, expression and privacy that once were the fundamental foundation of Western governments. There is no democracy without free speech. Once information is controlled so are the minds of the masses.

    They're is actually a law being considered in the Senate of the United States that allows censorship of speech based solely on opposition to certain corporate interests. And it has a large nonpartisan support base. That should scare the s**t out of everyone who actually likes having a modicum of freedom. This isn't the slippery slope. It's kicking the rock hold the avalanche back.

    Hell, in the US in the past it was difficult to impose censorship even during war when a great many lives were at stake. Now it's being imposed in the name of a few corporate interests who's business is being undermined by technological advances.


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