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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: censorship, copyright, due process, orrin hatch, patrick leahy

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.