Understanding COICA, America's horrific proposed net-censorship bill

COICA is back: that's the proposed US law that would establish a "Great Firewall of America" used to nationally censor the Internet to block putatively infringing websites. Progress on COICA was suspended during the midterms, but now it's back in the Senate and on the schedule for this Thursday. Peter Eckersley from the Electronic Frontier Foundation has legislative analysis summing up four important objections to the legislation:
  1. This bill won't help creators get paid when their work is distributed online. In fact, it will do the opposite.
  2. This is a censorship bill, with a blacklist and everything.
  3. The bill will undermine the Internet's Domain Name System and massively increase data traffic costs.
  4. The bill is an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech and a threat to innovation.
This is a censorship bill, with a blacklist and everything. Hollywood's previous adventures with blacklists were a dark period in American history. This time, it's not people suspected of being too communist, it's websites suspected of being too "piratical." Senator Leahy is leading the government into the swamp of trying to decide which websites should be blacklisted and which ones shouldn't, and they're going to discover that the line between copyright infringement and free political speech can be awfully murky.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) copyright enforcement provisions give copyright owners the relatively narrow power to remove just their copyrighted content from a website. Even then, there have been numerous mistakes, mishaps, and abuses of that narrow takedown system to censor legitimate speech online. Now imagine the mistakes, mishaps, and abuses we'll see with COICA's broader, government-initiated, domain-wide takedowns.

The Case Against COICA

23

  1. This just takes me one step closer to setting up some of those real-world filesharing points like the dude in NYC. I mean, seriously… do they think this will fly? This could be the start of true anarchy!

    *crosses fingers*

    1. I’m not exactly an Obama fan either, but it would be a serious mistake to believe that this wouldn’t be happening if a Republican were president.

      Also, repeating pithy political slogans, it doesn’t do anyone any good. It just shows that you’re a sucker for propaganda.

      1. Yes, a if a Republican were president, this would happen. I voted for Obama so shit like this would stop happening. He was supposed to be the anti-thesis of Bush – yes I bought the propaganda. I pride myself on being able to read people, but I was suckered by Obama and I hate to admit that. Obama is a liar who is nothing but the left hand version of the right hand GWB, and this makes me angry.

        I never voted before Obama (I’m 41) and I am never going to vote again.

        1. You could always vote for the mythic “third-party,” who represents neither the left- or right-hand of Satan?

        2. The over-share on your voting history aside, a little word on how the government actually works: the executive branch does not craft legislation, Congress does. This bill has 17 co-sponsors, both Dems & Repubs. I agree that while this bill has serious flaws, your Crayola analysis doesn’t add much to our understanding of the bill and certainly doesn’t provide a path forward.

  2. I saw this post after reading about Canada’s version of this bill. It’s even more horrific:

    http://is.gd/hgwop [Toronto Star]

    I think we’re one-up on the digital police-state horror show competition.

  3. with a VP that is straight out of the media corporations, not surprised at all.

    One party is backed by big oil and the MI complex, the other by big media.

  4. Johnphantom – This bill would have been introduced no matter who was the president.
    There is legally nothing Obama can do about this until it has passed both the Senate and the House.
    This is gradeschool-level civics. You should know this.

    1. This is gradeschool-level civics. You should know this.

      Don’t feed the trolls. John isn’t interested in anything but hoping to spread his simplistic opinion. How do we know this? No reply posts or interest in debate.

      Need I add to anti’s points that Bush introduced the Patriot act (though Obama does deserve vitriol for not reversing or weakening it), stymied the progress of medical science by banning stem cell research for 8 fucking years, (arguably on par with AIDS denialism in terms of impact on death rates) and pushed for his entire presidency to ignore gay rights to equality despite the fact he, personally has no issue with gay unions/partnerships and has gay friends. Um, and he started Iraq and Afghanistan… so to assert that his choices resulted in less negatives for the lives of Americans than Bush is obviously the position of a fool.

      Hey, until the republicans do ANYTHING constructive, you would have to be a diamond-class moron to vote for them. Their stated main aims for the next 2 years are:

      i) To reverse the health care bill (um.. why? America just somewhat caught up with the rest of the world and now these assholes want to put insurance companies in charge again? Just incase you didn’t realise, the American health care “system” is the laughing stock of the world).

      ii) To ensure President Obama is not elected for a second term.

      Sweet, this is going to be a really productive two years, isn’t it. If only the 5000 miles of water between my country and yours acted as a better buffer to America’s influence I wouldn’t care so much.

  5. I did the ‘Send a letter to your Senator” thing in October… and got this in return.

    “Thank you for writing to express your support for the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.” I appreciate knowing of your support for this legislation.

    On September 20, 2010, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (S. 3804). You may be pleased to know that I am an original cosponsor of this bill….
    Sincerely yours,
    Dianne Feinstein
    United States Senator”

    Oh well… THAT did a lot of good…

    1. Try your other Senator. Call each of their DC offices. Call their main in-state offices. Then write, by hand, a letter to each, on actual paper.

      I’ve heard time and again from activists that a hand-written letter is worth nearly 100 phone calls, or a couple hundred emails.

      1. [blockquote]I’ve heard time and again from activists that a hand-written letter is worth nearly 100 phone calls, or a couple hundred emails.[/blockquote]

        Or almost 1000 nonsense equations. Cripes.

  6. Wow, a law that would allow the government to pre-emptively censor entire websites based on the say-so of a corporation? I can’t imagine how that could possibly be misused.

    The only thing it’s missing is anti-circumvention measures stipulating harsh penalties for anyone who tries to put their DNS out of reach of the government.

  7. It’s stuff like this that makes the ODF and open-source-in-government fights so important. Issues where the critique boils down to “Oh, you want everything to be free and nobody to be able sell software,” are the overreach that is partner to this one. The more you fight for openness wherever it comes up the more you head tyrannical stuff like this off at the pass.

  8. I think the political takeaway is this: The Democratic Party is not, not your friend.

    Not that it’s WORSE than the GOP. But it is simply NOT better.

    The Democrats serve the corporations, just as the Republicans do. There are a few good apples, and some different rhetoric between the two..but expecting change by supporting democrats in general is simply foolish, and ignorant of history.

    The democrats are simply better at couching their pro-corporate initiatives in anti-corporate rhetoric.

    And for the record, as awful as Bush was, I would argue that Obama has pushed forward with more decisions that affect the lives of the average American negatively than Bush did, at least per year in office,

    As an aside, WTF does a truly momentous story like this have 16 comments and a story about a kid drinking piss have 85?

  9. And for the record, as awful as Bush was, I would argue that Obama has pushed forward with more decisions that affect the lives of the average American negatively than Bush did, at least per year in office

    Dude, Bush suspended habeas corpus. Obama could eat a baby for breakfast every morning for eight years and Bush would still be worse.

    1. Bush was slammed for illegal wiretapping, and rightly so. Meanwhile, the Obama administration MURDERS U.S. citizens and no one says a peep about it. Not a peep! And if anyone thinks I’m joking, you better look it up. The ACLU is even currently suing the government over this.

      Democrats renewed the Patriot Act with flying colors, too. Change? Where?

  10. “so to assert that his choices resulted in less negatives for the lives of Americans than Bush…”

    should read

    “so to assert that his choices resulted in less negatives for the lives of Americans than Obama…”

  11. It’s really depressing reading the opinions of the ill-informed, and un-informed on the COICA issue. Case in point: neither Pres. Obama, nor AG Holder initiated, nor support this proposed bill – the Legislative branch came up with it. Secondly, the standard presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and due process of law would not apply were this bill to become law. Third, there is no provision made for redress if a site is taken down without just cause. Fourth, blacklisting a U.S. based site would only slow down an infringing site briefly – until they could migrate to an off-shore host. Fifth, infringing content has a very short commercial shelf-life but content producers both want to deny support for EOL content, and protect their rights to it indefinitely. And sixth, as a society, do we really want to allow a person, (a corporation is technically considered a person in some cases) the right to prevent access to the Internet to another person based on a saying?

Comments are closed.