Earlier this year, we noted that the US IP Czar, Victoria Espinel, had been making the rounds to ISPs, registrars, payment processors and others to get them to agree to voluntarily
start shutting off certain "infringing" sites. Now we see the results of those talks. Espinel has announced that a variety of companies -- including Google, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Network Solutions -- have apparently agreed to effectively disappear and cut off certain websites
. The focus, for now, is on "unlicensed web pharmacies," with the idea being that these companies will effectively kill off those sites:
Together, the firms hope to tackle every link in the chain that keeps unlicensed pharmacies operating by stopping them showing up in search results, taking their websites offline, delisting the domains they use and stopping payments reaching them.
Think COICA without COICA -- but just with government pressure on companies. Seeing Visa, Mastercard and Paypal on the list certainly isn't surprising, after those three already did the same thing in cutting off Wikileaks. However, it's a bit surprising to see Google agree to this (Update
: Google says that it's only agreed to cut off advertising that violates its policies). If there's a trial and these sites are found guilty of violating the law, then I can see cutting them off -- but once again, it appears that this is the government trying to kill off websites, without a trial.
And, yes, it's for "unlicensed web pharmacies," and everyone plays up the spam and the fake (potentially dangerous) drugs. Those are a serious problem. But they also lump in the (quite common) grey market pharmacies as well -- which often allow people to get drugs from outside the country at much more affordable rates. Shutting down fake drug sellers is fine. Shutting down the grey market drug sellers is a bit of a bigger issue.
On top of that, given the recent ICE domain seizures and the whole COICA law -- both of which Espinel has spoken out in favor of -- it's not hard to see how the mandate behind this particular program is quite likely to grow well beyond "unauthorized web pharmacies" to other sites as well. In fact, MasterCard has apparently already agreed to cut off websites deemed "pirate" sites