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The Vice Tightens: New Internet Censorship Bill Introduced

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." 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." 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.

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