COICA Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee – A Good Idea Gone Government

The setup

U.S. agencies and officials would get new powers to go after foreign websites that sell counterfeit goods and pirated music, movies and books under a bill passed on Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, which supporters hope will set the stage for action next year, targets “rogue websites” in countries such as China that are outside the reach of U.S. law.

Critics like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, have attacked it as “Internet censorship” that could harm the credibility of the United States as a steward of the global domain name system.

The panel approved the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” with little time left this year for it to be passed by Congress and signed into law. Lawmakers are out next week for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and are expected to work only a few weeks in December.

What is this supposed to do? Well, the idea was to target those sites which offer copyrighted material, as well as counterfeit merchandise, especially non-US ownership domains

.…the list of targets could conceivably include hosting websites such as Dropbox, MediaFire and Rapidshare; MP3 blogs and mashup/remix music sites like SoundCloud, MashupTown and Hype Machine ; and sites that discuss and make the controversial political and intellectual case for piracy, like pirate-party.us, p2pnet, InfoAnarchy, Slyck and ZeroPaid . Indeed, had this bill been passed five or ten years ago, YouTube might not exist today. In other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous. (Why would all these sites be targets?)

Others, such as thepiratesbay.org (which is really one of the main targets), would also feel the wrath of the US federal government.

Now, this can’t be bad, right? I mean, these folks are trafficking in copyrighted material, and the people who own the products are, for all intense purposes, having their material stolen and given away for free while someone else may make money off of them

“Those seeking to thwart this bipartisan bill are protecting online thieves and those who gain pleasure and profit from de-valuing American property,” Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman, said after today’s vote. “We congratulate Chairman Leahy and Senator Hatch for their leadership on this bill and to the Senate Judiciary Committee for its action today.” (Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, are cosponsors of COICA.)

Civil libertarians and all sorts of “Rights” folks are freaking out, calling this censorship and a violation of their First amendment rights, despite the material being blatantly stolen. Really, many of them are going way too far.

However, there is a wee bit of a problem with ignoring the law, and what it does. Getting beyond the hysteria laden first few paragraphs of this Huffington Post article, we find out

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.

And this is where the intent of the legislation, a legitimate attempt to stop serious online copyright infringement and intellectual property theft, took a bad turn.

According to the broad language of the law, I just broke it 4 times with those excerpts. Virtually every single blog in the world will break this law every time they excerpt a story that is copyrighted. Which is pretty much every news article. If you excerpt something I write, you’re breaking copyright law. Not that I would bother, mind you, but, I could have your domain shut down if I complained to the DOJ (then they’d shut me down for all the excerpts). Hot Air? Toast. Michelle Malkin? Gone. Ace of Spade. Bye Bye. Huffington Post? Daily Kos? Screw them. Democratic Underground? See ya. This could be done through one of the two lists, the first which would shut your domain name down (people could still get there by the website number, which should make it easy for Joe Biden.) The second method would have the DOJ encouraging providers to shut off access, despite Fair Use law.

Here are the 19 Republican and Democrat Senators who voted in favor of this bill which goes a step too far.

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