As expected, Congress is holding hearings as it prepares to reintroduce COICA, a horribly written piece of legislation that effectively gives the US government more powers to censor websites (even beyond the Homeland Security domain seizures) by forcing companies to block the site, turn off hosting or refuse to provide other services to the site -- and this can be done with little or no due process, in violation of the basic principles of the Constitution. At least the hearings aren't totally one-sided. Sherwin Siy is presenting an excellent speech that warns how such a law may sound good on a first pass, but has a ton of unintended consequences. There are serious questions about stifling not just plenty of non-infringing speech, but also harming innovation:
In regulating copyright, the law is regulating a form of speech. Addressing these issues in the context of the Internet--a potent outlet for free speech of all sorts--adds additional delicacy to these undertakings. Any technical mechanism that can be used to remove infringing content can be abused to remove disfavored, but constitutionally protected, speech. Any legal remedy that can enjoin the distribution of content can be misapplied or misused in the restraint of speech. This means that both technical and legal measures must be narrowly tailored both in their defined targets for action, and in the scope of the effects of their remedies.
Proposed remedies against online infringers must also take into account the evolving nature of the Internet and the businesses that rely upon it. Overbroad mechanisms can chill not only speech, but also investment in new distributed technologies.
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