Are you ready for the Great Firewall of the US?

Reposting an article I put up at the Massachusetts Pirate Party blog.  I did change the title though.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) bill is dead it seems. However, the entertainment industry and their lackeys supporters in Congress have introduced the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 or PROTECT IP Act for short. It isn’t out on Thomas yet so we do not know who is sponsoring it, but Don’t Censor the Net obtained and released a copy of it for everyone to read in all its pro-censorship glory.

Techdirt and Torrentfreak have good write ups on what we know about it, but here is a summary of the odiousness of this bill:

  • the Attorney General of the US can obtain a court order to censor an infringing website without due process.  It can then serve the court order on specified U.S. based third-parties to censor the website or stop doing business with the website.  Third-parties include search engines, payment processors, online advertising network providers, and internet service providers.  Third-parties would now be held liable if they do not censor the specified website.  Websites could be held liable for simply linking to an infringing website;
  • additionally, the act would extend most of the tools the Attorney General has to  private copyright holders. They could obtain a court order against a website without due process.  The copyright holders could then serve the court order on specified U.S. payment processors and online advertising network providers to force them to stop doing business with the website;
  • court orders would not be limited to the specified domain, but would include all domains linked to the website that were created after the court order was issued;
  • service providers which voluntary censor websites that they deem to be infringing would be protected from liability.  Should a service provider choose to censor a website, there appears to be no recourse for the owner of the censored website;
  • the bill is directed at “Internet site dedicated to infringing activities”, a definition which is rather loose and very much in the eye of the beholder.

One of the seeming pluses of the PROTECT IP Act when compared to COICA is that it does not appear to directly target domains.  However, domain registrars would be encouraged to take down infringing domain names voluntarily.  We hope that ICE’s attempts to seize domains via Operation In Our Sites does not hold up in court.

We need your help!

The PROTECT IP Act is an enormous leap towards censoring the internet, and we need your help in fighting it.  Please join us on Sunday, May 29th, for our monthly meeting / social.  The meeting starts at 2pm.  We will start the grill around 4pm and go until 6pm.  It will be at 25 Moore St., Somerville, MA.  Please tell us whether you will attend by signing up at our Facebook event or via Tweetvite.  Thanks!

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