A bill that will allow the US government to force internet service providers to block websites accused of illegal file sharing was passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning by a unanimous vote.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) will permit government officials to set up a system banning the Domain Name System of any website they believe is engaging in activities related to piracy. It will also ban credit card companies from processing any domestic payments to the websites and forbid online marketing agencies from doing business with them.
Predictably, the RIAA was pleased with the results of the vote.
“With this first vote, Congress has begun to strike at the lifeline of foreign scam sites, while protecting free speech and boosting the legal online marketplace,” said RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol. “Those seeking to thwart this bipartisan bill are protecting online thieves and those who gain pleasure and profit from de-valuing American property.”
But while the bill passed with unanimous support by politicians, some citizens are not so thrilled with the outcome and plan to try to change the measure.
“We are disappointed that the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning chose to disregard the concerns of public-interest groups, Internet engineers, Internet companies, human-rights groups and law professors in approving a bill that could do great harm to the public and to the Internet,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Washington DC based public interest group Public Knowledge. Sohn told Ars Technica that he vows to push for a “more narrowly tailored bill” next year.
Additionally, a group of law professors, who have been rallying against COICA since it originated, drafted another letter in opposition of the bill this week. Signed by over 50 professors from some of the most prominent law schools in the United States and around the world, the letter outlines why the bill would be unconstitutional if passed into law:
The Act, if enacted into law, will not survive judicial scrutiny, and will, therefore, never be used to address the problem (online copyright and trademark infringement) that it is designed to address. Its significance, therefore, is entirely symbolic – and the symbolism it presents is ugly and insidious… Even more significant and more troubling, the Act represents a retreat from the United States’ historical position as a bulwark and beacon against censorship and other threats to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and the free exchange of information and ideas around the globe.
The bill still has to pass before Congress, the House of Representatives, and be signed into law by the president before it would take effect. Unfortunately, with the overwhelming support it has been receiving from both Democrats and Republicans, there will likely be no roadblocks ahead.
If you’re a US citizen and you don’t like this bill, you can call/write/fax your representative and your senators asking them to oppose it.