Could Our First Amendment Rights be Collateral Damage of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act?

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 19-0 on Thursday to approve the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, otherwise known as the COICA bill, and send it to the full Senate. The bill would give US Law enforcement more and faster ways of cracking down on websites engaged in piracy of movies, TV and music. It includes allowing law enforcement to issue court orders to seize domains located outside of the United States. The bill has bipartisan support and is supported by people in all facets of the entertainment industry including; music, movies, TV, newspapers, publishers and authors.

But not everyone is happy with the idea of the bill. While at a hearing on digital trade issues Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden, said he would block the bill from passing through the full Senate.  “Deploying this statute to combat online copyright infringement seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile… If you don’t think this thing through carefully the collateral damage would be American innovation, American jobs, and a secure Internet.”

With only a few more days in the session this year it means the bill will need to pass soon or sponsors of the bill will have to reintroduce it next session. Some of the sponsors of the bill include Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. They say it is much needed to combat copyright and trademark infringement online.

“The internet needs to be free – not lawless.” Leahy stated.

Similarly Hatch said in a statement, “The Internet serves as the glue of international commerce in today’s global economy. But it’s also been turned into a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.”

But when is protecting American intellectual property and preventing thieves from stealing millions of dollars infringing on American’s First Amendment rights? And if it does which is more important?…

Critics of the bill say it will amount to too much censorship and even if a website has infringing material it also has content that should be protected by free-speech rights. The Center for Democracy and Technology says it could lead to fragmentation of the Internet.  The EFF, Electronic Freedom Foundation, has labeled the bill as an “Internet censorship” bill.

President and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, Ed Black, says, “The significance and implications of the legislation I don’t think have been well thought through. Sadly, it’s an example of what not to do in an important, complicated digital ecosystem.”

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Comments:

  1. Beneficial insights! I have been looking for something such as this for quite a while now. Thanks for your insight!

    Comment by Elliot on November 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm

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