Late Night: Senate to Drop Ban Hammer on teh Internets?

The Internets. Both of them. This meme may become a reality…

We will support a free and open Internet.

That’s what Barack Obama told the United Nations. But then why is there a bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee that would allow the Attorney General to block certain Internet domain names from ISPs?

The bill S. 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would create two blacklists of Internet sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” which is defined very broadly as any site where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site.”

Heck, that could be eBay–I’ve seen some pretty bogus Marc Jacobs Stam bags on there, as well as faux Max Studio, BCBG  and Betsey Johnston dresses. And certainly YouTube could be considered such a site, though they do pull any video  which is flagged with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) infringement notice. Flickr.com and other photo storage sites allow people to upload their photoshopped images, as of course does the monster shoop site ICanHazcheeseburger.com

Anyway, one of the blacklists can be added to by the courts, the second by the Attorney General.  According to Demand Progress:

Internet service providers (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 government’s gratitude) for blocking domains on the second list.

Copyright is a tricky thing. The Associated Press says:

Associated Press text material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither these AP materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.

And that means if a tree falls in the forest and only the AP is there to cover it, does that actually mean you can’t mention the tree hitting the earth without violating the AP’s copyright, even if you blogged under Fair Use that

a mighty big piece of living lumber  was felled by unknown means, according to the AP

rather than

a tree fell in the forest

because that is “rewritten”?

So technically if you did blog about it, under COICA your site could be blacklisted by servers and basically disappear because you “violated” copyright by reporting news to which you didn’t have direct access. Unless you paid the AP. So news becomes proprietary information. And that means control of information and possibly no freedom of the press since unlimited access would be truncated.

Nowadays, copyright infringement is handled with lawyer letters, threats of lawsuits and actual court trials, where there is a burden of proof. Should this pass, the lights would go off on sites deemed violators. Demand Progress says:

This bill would bypass that whole system by forcing Internet service providers to block access to sites that are otherwise up. People in other countries could still get to them, but Internet users in the US would be blocked.

Blocked from entire domain names. Sort of like how the governments of Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere block undesirable sites. Granted, because of copyright and licensing laws, when I was in Ireland, I couldn’t watch clips from The View on ABC.com; when in Turkey, I was unable to listen to Coast to Coast on KFI640.com, so I wonder how many blocked sites would actually still be visible. And plus there are ways around that. Demand Progress claims that

if this law passes Internet traffic will be reconfigured to route around it. Companies will move their US servers and domain names overseas, Internet users will route their traffic through other countries (just like Chinese citizens have to do now!), and software will have to be reconfigured to no longer trust answers from American servers.

Demand Progress is concerned that this bill is the start of a slippery slope  and that with a little prodding from Teh Gubbermints  all sorts of sites could end up being banned, not only news, blogs, politics, and entertainment, but  porn and gambling, which is really what fueled the series of interconnected tubes.

Comments are closed.