On February 16, 2011, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a proposed legislation S. 3804 entitled: Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.
While the title sounds great, the bill proposes significant problems. The bill authorizes the federal courts to issue injunctions against Internet sites that are “dedicated to infringing activities” — i.e., sites “primarily designed,” or with "no demonstrable commercially significant purpose or use other than,” to offer goods or services in violation of the federal copyright or trademark laws, based upon an application by the Attorney General and an assertion that the sites in question are operating unlawfully. I hope no one supporting this bill has ever been on the bad side of an Attorney General with an axe to grind.
The injunctions would not actually be directed at the websites themselves (many of which may be located overseas beyond the jurisdiction of US courts), however, but at their domain names; they would require removal of a site’s domain name from the Internet’s central domain name registry databases, and from the “routing tables” used by Internet Service Providers to process Internet messages and route them to their appropriate destination.
COICA authorizes the removal of content and entire websites (not just portions as with the DMCA) which in the end results in the suppression of Internet speech without giving the party affected any meaningful opportunity to contest the allegations of unlawful content. The actions to start the removal of entire domains relies solely on prosecutorial allegations of a violation of US law, Internet websites around the world would go “dark” — their content unavailable to Internet users anywhere because their domain names will no longer “resolve” properly in the central databases.
For those who are familiar with the seizure of the wikileaks domain, and the alleged hacking attempts against the domain. Look no further, as this law would provide for the ability for an application by an AG, and the site would be removed. I fear big brother would grow larger with the way this current legislation is written.
For those that love reading, the full text of the current version is posted here.
To see or read the hearing, you can check it out here.