COICA, the proposed US Internet censorship bill, has been reintroduced under a new name. Now called "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property" (PROTECT-IP), the proposed legislation takes an even more extremist approach to assisting a small group of copyright companies improve their bottom line by enlisting other industries to fight on their behalf, regardless of the cost to the public and the public interest.
PROTECT-IP establishes the same "Great Firewall of America" that COICA provided for, a blacklist of websites censored in the USA because they are "dedicated to infringing activities." But PROTECT-IP adds a duty for credit-card and other payment processors to boycott sites that the entertainment industry doesn't like. It also requires ad brokers to blacklist these sites. And it gives rightsholders the power to get payment processors and ad networks on-board through private court action, skipping government oversight altogether. It also forces search-engines to de-index sites that have been targetted by the entertainment industry.
The PROTECT IP Act goes even further than forcing these intermediaries to take action after a court order; it actively encourages them to take unilateral action without any sort of court order at all. The bill summary makes clear that ad networks and payment processors will be protected if they "voluntarily cease doing business with infringing websites, outside of any court ordered action." If a search engine decides that the next YouTube is a copyright infringer--and rightsholders have often sued sites like Veoh and YouTube in the past--it can simply cut off advertising for that reason and be immunized under the law. So can Visa.
The bill also encourages everyone--domain name registries, search engines, payment processors, and ad networks--to cut off access to infringing sites that "endanger the public health." That is, online pharmacies (which are often hotbeds of counterfeiting).
As Nate at Ars Technica points out, this kind of extremist legislation turns up in Congress every couple years, and generally it gets defeated when enough people make enough noise. But the entertainment industry is tireless, and these laws don't kill themselves. They need our help. So watch this space for information on letter-writing campaigns, call-your-senator days, and other opportunities to kill this one, too.