A bill that would allow the US government to force internet service providers to block websites accused of illegal file sharing is not a threat for now, but could be back late this year.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), also known as S. 3804, was expected to be fast-tracked through the Senate Judiciary Committee and passed late last week, but the legislation ran out of time before adjourning for the election season.
The break is by no means a victory for citizens and groups who have opposed the bill, however it does give people more time to voice their concerns. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been encouraging readers of their blog to write to their senators and has also recently featured “An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the Senate Judiciary Committee”, a plea for rejection of the bill signed by 96 prominent web technology employees.
“All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but this bill will be particularly egregious in that regard because it causes entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under this bill,” the letter states.
It’s not only censorship that the letter cites as an issue. It also point out that the actions will cause, “Errors and divergences to appear between these new services and the current global DNS, and contradictory addresses will confuse browsers and frustrate the people using them. These problems will be widespread and will affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.”
Unfortunately, no matter how many people rally in opposition of this bill, the US government already has its own contingency plan in case COICA doesn’t pass. As we reported last week, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, has been meeting with Internet registrars, ISPs, payment processors, and others connected to the online industry in an attempt to convince them to voluntarily censor websites per the government’s request.
And COICA already has the support of both Republicans and Democrats on its side along with, of course, the RIAA and MPAA. Chances of the bill failing when sessions resume are slim unless something drastic happens in the meantime.
If you’re a US Citizen and don’t like what is occurring, it’s quite simple to contact your senator and voice your opinion.