Sen. Patrick Leahy has introduced a bill affecting the Internet that could have a “dangerous impact on freedom of speech,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) introduced by the Vermont Democrat, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, requires Internet Service Providers, Domain Name System providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites.
The legislation, which seeks to curb online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods, would create two “blacklists.” The first is a list of all websites hit with a censorship court order from the Attorney General. The second is a list of domain names that the Department of Justice determines are “dedicated to infringing activities” that violate copyright laws.
COICA requires blocking for domains on the first list and “strongly suggests” that domains on the second list should be blocked as well by providing legal immunity for those who do block access to websites, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit civil liberties organization.
“This is a censorship bill that runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the Internet” and could have a “dangerous impact on freedom of speech,” the EFF observes.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998, already gives copyright owners legal means to remove copyright violating material piece by piece. But COICA “vastly expands this. It would allow the Attorney General to shoot down a whole domain including all the blog posts, images, backups, and files underneath it,” the EFF reports.
“In other words, it’s not just possible but probable that a great deal of legitimate, protected speech will be taken down in the name of copyright enforcement.”
A hearing on the bill is scheduled this week before the Judiciary Committee.
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