The Return Of COICA; Because Censorship Is Cool Again

from the it's-baaaack dept

As expected, Congress is holding hearings as it prepares to reintroduce COICA, a horribly written piece of legislation that effectively gives the US government more powers to censor websites (even beyond the Homeland Security domain seizures) by forcing companies to block the site, turn off hosting or refuse to provide other services to the site -- and this can be done with little or no due process, in violation of the basic principles of the Constitution. At least the hearings aren't totally one-sided. Sherwin Siy is presenting an excellent speech that warns how such a law may sound good on a first pass, but has a ton of unintended consequences. There are serious questions about stifling not just plenty of non-infringing speech, but also harming innovation:
In regulating copyright, the law is regulating a form of speech. Addressing these issues in the context of the Internet--a potent outlet for free speech of all sorts--adds additional delicacy to these undertakings. Any technical mechanism that can be used to remove infringing content can be abused to remove disfavored, but constitutionally protected, speech. Any legal remedy that can enjoin the distribution of content can be misapplied or misused in the restraint of speech. This means that both technical and legal measures must be narrowly tailored both in their defined targets for action, and in the scope of the effects of their remedies.

Proposed remedies against online infringers must also take into account the evolving nature of the Internet and the businesses that rely upon it. Overbroad mechanisms can chill not only speech, but also investment in new distributed technologies.
Meanwhile, the EFF is noting that the massive mistakes highlighted in the recent Homeland Security domain seizures should act as a warning sign for politicians supporting COICA.
Criminal copyright infringement is infringement committed “willfully” and in the context of various specific circumstances. Significantly, the websites targeted in the most recent ICE action appear to have merely linked to infringing content. That is, they did not themselves violate any of the exclusive rights of copyright owners that would constitute direct infringement. The ICE agent who signed the affidavit explicitly states that the ten seized domains point to what he calls “linking” websites—i.e., websites that contain “links to files on third party websites that contain illegal copies of copyrighted content.” (He also points out that these linking sites “are popular because they allow users to quickly browse content and locate illegal streams that would otherwise be more difficult to find.” Sound like any search engines you know?)
Hopefully Congress realizes what a mistake COICA would be, but we keep hearing from people saying that the entertainment industry has put a huge effort behind COICA and getting it passed as quickly as possible.

Filed Under: censorship, coica, copyright, free speech

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2011 @ 8:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I won't make it to 50.1% any time soon. Last graphic I saw has legit traffic at about 2%. Almost everything else was pirated whatever. The only thing propping up the 2% was Wolrd of Warcrack stuff. Otherwise, there isn't much legal P2P action going on at all.

    89-90% of torrents infringe, and something like 98% of the traffic is infringing material. You have to be willfully blind not to know what it is used for.

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
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

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