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New Internet Censorship Bill Introduced

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New Internet Censorship Bill Introduced - by Stephen Lendman

Like most others in Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy is no progressive. He voted to fund imperial wars, regressive Obamacare, Wall Street-friendly financial reform, and other pro-business measures, including agribusiness-empowering bills, harming small farmers and consumers.

Now he's at it again. On September 20, he introduced S. 3804: Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), "A bill to combat online infringement, and for other purposes." Referred to committee, it awaits further action. In fact, it needs a dagger thrust in its heart to kill it.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Richard Esguerra:

If enacted, this bill lets the Attorney General and Justice Department "break the Internet one domain at a time - by requiring domain registrars/registries, ISPs, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites."

Two online blacklists will be created:

-- one for web sites the Attorney General may censor or block, and

-- most disturbing, domain names the Justice Department decides (without judicial review) are "dedicated to infringing activities."

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The bill doesn't mandate, but "strongly suggests" that second category domains be blocked "as well as providing legal immunity for Internet intermediaries and DNS operators" that do it willingly at the behest of authorities.

Without question, "tremendous pressure" will be applied to comply, the alternative perhaps being recrimination for refusing.

Though fairly short, COICA may dangerously impair free expression, "current Internet architecture, copyright doctrine, foreign policy," and more. In 2010, "efforts to re-write copyright law (targeting) 'piracy' online" have been shown "to have unintended consequences."

Like other 2009 and 2010 bills, COICA "is a censorship bill that runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the Internet," an outrageous First Amendment violation by "tr(ying) to define a site 'dedicated to infringing activities,' (by) block(ing) a whole domain," not that one part alone if legally proved, rather than by government edict.

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) "already gives copyright owners legal tools to remove infringing material piece-by-piece." It also lets them get injunctions requiring ISPs block infringing offshore sites. Misusing these provisions "have had a tremendously damaging impact on fair use and free expression."

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If enacted, Leahy's COICA will take a giant leap, "streamlin(ing) and vastly expand(ing)" existing damage. It'll let the Attorney General shut down domains, including their "blog posts, images, backups, and files." As a result, "legitimate, protected speech will be taken down in the name of copyright enforcement," and basic Internet infrastructure will be undermined.

For example: when users enter web site URLs into their browsers, the domain name system server identifies their Internet location. COICA will let the Attorney General "prevent the players in (those) domain system(s), (possibly including your ISP) from telling you the truth about a website's location."

It's also unclear what would be accessed - perhaps a message saying "a site or page could not be found, without explaining why? Would users receive some kind of notice," possibly saying "the site they were seeking was made inaccessible at the behest of the government?"

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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