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Senate Committee Passes Bill To Give The Attorney General The Power To Shutdown Alternative Media
- By Lee Rogers

The elites for some time now have been using the premise of copyright law to seize more control over the Internet.   Legislation that would ban people from the Internet if they were caught uploading and downloading copyrighted films and music has been considered in many countries including the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand.  Now, the U.S. Congress through Senate Bill 3804 or the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act is seeking to enact a copyright law that would effectively give the office of the U.S. Attorney General the ability to shutdown web sites if they suspect a particular web site might be infringing copyright law. This bill would give the executive branch draconian authority to shutdown the alternative media that has flourished on the Internet.

Yesterday, the bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee 19 to 0. It has been heavily criticized by mainstream technology web sites including Wired Magazine. Below is a blurb from an article they wrote about the bill.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would give the Attorney General the right to shut down websites with a court order if copyright infringement is deemed “central to the activity” of the site — regardless if the website has actually committed a crime. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) is among the most draconian laws ever considered to combat digital piracy, and contains what some have called the “nuclear option,” which would essentially allow the Attorney General to turn suspected websites “off.”

Unfortunately, this analysis by Wired Magazine is absolutely correct. In Section 2 of the bill an amendment to U.S. Code is offered dealing with Internet sites dedicated to infringing activities. In this section the definition of an Internet site that is dedicated to infringing activities is defined. One of the definitions is as follows.

Primarily designed, has no demonstrable, commercially significant purpose or use other than, or is marketed by its operator, or by a person acting in concert with the operator, to offer goods or services in violation of title 17, United States Code, or enable or facilitate a violation of title 17, United States Code, including by offering or providing access to, without the authorization of the copyright owner or otherwise by operation of law, copies of, or public performance or display of, works protected by title 17, in complete or substantially complete form, by any means, including by means of download, transmission, or otherwise, including the provision of a link or aggregated links to other sites or Internet resources for obtaining such copies for accessing such performance or displays;

In other words, a web site could be involved in copyright infringement even if they provide a hyperlink to copyright material. Even more ridiculous is that the material in question doesn't even need to be a complete copy. Many web sites in the alternative media provide summations or use parts of copyright material. This is acceptable under what is known as "Fair Use" but this bill would actually redefine web sites that engage in legitimate news gathering and analysis to be involved in copyright infringement.

Based upon this criteria the bill allows the U.S. Attorney General to simply obtain a court order requiring Internet Service Providers to block access to domain names that they believe are involved in copyright infringement. In other words, the U.S. Attorney General can simply order Internet Service Providers to prevent a domain name from resolving properly if they believe it is involved in copyright infringement without any sort of due process.

Even more ridiculous is that the bill describes how the U.S. Attorney General would typically manage a list of domain names involved in copyright infringement.  In the bill it states as follows.

The Attorney General shall maintain a public listing of domain names that, upon information and reasonable belief, the Department of Justice determines are dedicated to infringing activities but for which the Attorney General has not filed an action under this section.

Essentially, the only criteria for a domain name being put on this list is if the U.S. Attorney General has reasonable belief that a certain web site is involved in copyright infringement.  Again, there is no due process involved for a domain name to be put on this list.

The bill which is also heavily supported by high profile corporate music and film interests is simply designed to shut down free speech and in particular go after the alternative media.  It has absolutely nothing to do with providing legitimate copyright protection but would aid the out dated business models used by large music and film companies.  It is one of the most insanely anti-freedom and anti-free speech bills ever conceived. There are already various copyright laws on the books and the only reason why this new bill is being pushed forward is because it suits the aforementioned corporate interests and it would give the U.S. government the power to begin shutting down web sites that the establishment has a problem with.

Many prominent law professors and engineers have already gone public denouncing the bill and it is easy to see why.  The U.S. Congress has historically passed many pieces of legislation that have been entirely against the premise of individual freedom. Based on this fact it looks like this bill will eventually be passed into law considering the historical precedent. If not now, it will probably be re-introduced at a future date. It is obvious that the alternative media is creating problems for the establishment and they want to have the tools to be able to shut it down. This bill if passed into law will give them that power.