The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry's got great commentary on the Department of Homeland Security's seizure of 82 domain names -- this act of quasi-legal confiscation and censorship is not only ineffective at combatting infringement, it also sucks up scarce DHS resources:
First, these seizures may be just a short preview of the kind of overreaching enforcement we'll see if the Congress passes the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). That bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov 18, gives the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, in particular the ability to make entire websites disappear from the Internet if infringement, or even links to infringement, are deemed to be "central" to the purpose of the site. Rather than just targeting files that actually infringe copyright law, COICA's "nuclear-option" design has the government blacklisting entire sites out of the domain name system -- a reckless scheme that will undermine global Internet infrastructure and censor legitimate online speech. As we've noted, one of the most pernicious effects of COICA is likely to be just what we've seen here: the takedown of legitimate speech.
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Second, the seizures also show why this kind of enforcement doesn't work; seized sites were available at other domain names within hours. If the United States government increases interference in critical DNS infrastructure to police alleged copyright infringement, it is very likely that a large percentage of the Internet will shift to alternative DNS mechanisms that are located outside the US. This will cause numerous problems -- including new network security issues, as a large percentage of the population moves to encrypted offshore DNS to escape the censoring effects of the procedures outlined in COICA.
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:
This bill won't help creators get paid when their work is distributed online. In fact, it will do the opposite.
This is a censorship bill, with a blacklist and everything.
The bill will undermine the Internet's Domain Name System and massively increase data traffic costs.
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.
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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.