Stop the Internet Blacklist

From The Huffington Post:

David Segal

RI State Representative

Posted: September 27, 2010 09:40 AM

By David Segal and Aaron Swartz

When it really matters to them, Congressmembers can come together — with a panache and wry wit you didn’t know they had. As banned books week gets underway, and President Obama admonishes oppressive regimes for their censorship of the Internet, a group of powerful Senators — Republicans and Democrats alike — have signed onto a bill that would vastly expand the government’s power to censor the Internet.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) was introduced just one week ago, but it’s greased and ready to move, with a hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee this Thursday. If people don’t speak out, US citizens could soon find themselves joining Iranians and Chinese in being blocked from accessing broad chunks of the public Internet.

Help us stop this bill in its tracks! Click here to sign our petition.

COICA creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Courts could add sites to the first list; the Attorney General would have control over the second. Internet service providers and others (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the good favor of the government) if they block domains on the second list.

The lists are for sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” but that’s defined very broadly — any domain name where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” could be blocked.

One example of what this means in practice: sites like YouTube could be censored in the US. Copyright holders like Viacom often argue copyrighted material is central to the activity of YouTube, but under current US law, YouTube is perfectly legal as long as they take down copyrighted material when they’re informed about it — which is why Viacom lost to YouTube in court.

But if COICA passes, Viacom wouldn’t even need to prove YouTube is doing anything illegal to get it shut down — as long as they can persuade the courts that enough other people are using it for copyright infringement, the whole site could be censored.

Perhaps even more disturbing: Even if Viacom couldn’t get a court to compel censorship of a YouTube or a similar site, the DOJ could put it on the second blacklist and encourage ISPs to block it even without a court order. (ISPs have ample reason to abide the will of the powerful DOJ, even if the law doesn’t formally require them to do so.)

COICA’s passage would be a tremendous blow to free speech on the Internet — and likely a first step towards much broader online censorship. Please help us fight back: The first step is signing our petition. We’ll give you the tools to share it with your friends and call your Senator.

2 Responses to “Stop the Internet Blacklist”

  1. edith Says:

    I’ve refrained from commenting here for many reasons. This is the second time you have posted an article by David Segal, however. I worked as a volunteer on David’s campaign before the September primary. He ran against a member of the Democratic party establishment, here in Rhode Island, for the seat Patrick Kennedy is vacating after Patrick’s term ends. I find it interesting that Aaron Schwartz is co-writing articles with David. I don’t know that much about Schwartz but, apparently, he is the founder of the Bold Progressive wing of the Democratic party.

    I don’t know how familiar anyone is with Larry Lessig. He came and spoke at a Segal fundraiser at the end of August. He, I believe, is a board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. What Lessig had to say was very interesting. The issues are very convoluted but they have enormous consequences.

    I don’t care what you think about religion, Suzan. I met a very interesting person at the fundraiser, a Presbyterian minister, who had spent a lot of time in southern Mexico. He had quite a bit to say about grain dumping after NAFTA during the Clinton years, changes in the laws regarding land rights and the effect both of these things had on the Mexican economy. He also had a lot to say about the situation in Venezuela and how distorted the information regarding that country is in the U S.

    There are very sincere people out there. I saw the Segal campaign from the inside. It is very unfortunate he did not prevail. His opponent, David Cicilline, who is one of the few gay politicians in office in this country, is someone who is dismissive of privacy rights. Segal did much better in the election, than the establishment news media predicted he would. It is very difficult for the average person to be trusting of any politician, however.

    We are who we are. We all come from different backgrounds. Corporate influence has gone unchecked for far too long. The education system is in a shambles in Rhode Island. The homeless population has doubled. I am glad someone who is as rare as David Segal is getting exposure on the national level. Things are a total mess. I don’t know if there is any hope. I don’t think any of us should be blamed for trying, though.

  2. Andrea B Says:

    This proposed law is something that most people won’t pay attention to.

    After it is passed, all it takes is a minor modification passed onto another large bill and it can go way beyond shutting illegal file sharing websites. Also it gives the peace in charge of implementation very little limits on implementation.

    At present it is impossible to send an email through the internet provider ‘Orange’ with the word transsexual in the header, as they consider it a word for sexual purposes. Orange is a French based internet provider, which shows how much lies really come from France about attitudes towards transsexual people. Strangely Orange is named very often in French legal cases in paedophile grooming cases. Strange priorities.

    Can you imagine what will happen if people who are appointed to make decisions on this law are given extra scope under a morality clause at a later date as part of a tagged on law bill.

    It will not be just transsexual websites that disappear. It will be across the board.

    The proposed law is written to allow such scenarios to occur. It is clear this law is nothing to do with file sharing which the media companies are dealing with through the courts by arresting spotty faced teenagers, instead of going after bankers, terrorists, rapists and murderers.

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