COICA: Giving the government the power to shut down dissent

Ed Morrissey

Thanks to a bill that has received bipartisan support in the Senate, the Department of Justice may soon have the power to suspend domain names if the Attorney General deems a site as having copyright infringement “central to the activity” conducted by the site owners.  Hollywood and the recording industry has pushed the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) to get the government in position to seize Internet sites that damage the property rights of intellectual property producers, bypassing the existing remedies of lawsuits and damage recoveries.  However, the ambiguous nature of the definition and the wide latitude it gives the executive branch in imposing remedies without due process should have everyone in the First Amendment space nervous — especially the blogosphere:

COICA is the latest effort by Hollywood, the recording industry and the big media companies to stem the tidal wave of internet file sharing that has upended those industries and, they claim, cost them tens of billions of dollars over the last decade.

The content companies have tried suing college students. They’ve tried suing internet startups. Now they want the federal government to act as their private security agents, policing the internet for suspected pirates before making them walk the digital plank.

Many people opposed to the bill agree in principle with its aims: Illegal music piracy is, well, illegal, and should be stopped. Musicians, artists and content creators should be compensated for their work. But the law’s critics do not believe that giving the federal government the right to shut down websites at will based upon a vague and arbitrary standard of evidence, even if no law-breaking has been proved, is a particularly good idea.  …

In short, COICA would allow the federal government to censor the internet without due process.

As Wired reports, the Obama administration and Congress are engaged in a little hypocrisy here.  Hillary Clinton just got done warning China not to censor the internet in almost exactly the way this bill would allow Eric Holder to do…

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