Good Morning Conflucians!!
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving last week. Well, at least those in the US that observe the holiday. Everyone else can suck it. Just kidding, hope everyone had a great week last week as well. While I’m at it, hope anyone celebrating the real first Thanksgiving (Virginia 1619) last month had a great time too.
The big news in the tech world was ICE/Homeland Security seizing over 70 web domains of organizations suspected of doing something bad. Yes, only suspected. WSJ very briefly mentions it:
Federal authorities have shut down more than 70 websites in one the broadest actions yet against companies the government suspects of selling counterfeit or pirated products.
Visitors to the affected sites–which offer such diverse goods as scarves, golfing gear and rap music–are greeted with a notice stating their domain names have been seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The notice cites penalties for willful copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit goods.
It appears only some of those sites involved a court order. Others were taken down without such trivialities. And one of the sites upon investigation couldn’t possibly be involved in anything illegal because of how things were set up. But never mind. HotAir has more details. The worry everyone had before this happened was the COICA bill pending in Congress (emphasis mine):
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.”
COICA is the latest effort by Hollywood, the recording industry and the big media companies to stem the tidal wave of internet file sharing that has upended those industries and, they claim, cost them tens of billions of dollars over the last decade.
The content companies have tried suing college students. They’ve tried suing internet startups. Now they want the federal government to act as their private security agents, policing the internet for suspected pirates before making them walk the digital plank.
Many people opposed to the bill agree in principle with its aims: Illegal music piracy is, well, illegal, and should be stopped. Musicians, artists and content creators should be compensated for their work. But the law’s critics do not believe that giving the federal government the right to shut down websites at will based upon a vague and arbitrary standard of evidence, even if no law-breaking has been proved, is a particularly good idea. COICA must still be approved by the full House and Senate before becoming law. A vote is unlikely before the new year.
Among the sites that could go dark if the law passes: Dropbox, RapidShare, SoundCloud, Hype Machine and any other site for which the Attorney General deems copyright infringement to be “central to the activity” of the site, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that opposes the bill. There need not even be illegal content on a site — links alone will qualify a site for digital death. Websites at risk could also theoretically include p2pnet and pirate-party.us or any other website that advocates for peer-to-peer file sharing or rejects copyright law, according to the group.
In short, COICA would allow the federal government to censor the internet without due process.
So what caught the world by surprise was that ICE/DHS just did basically what they will be able to do with COICA before it was even passed. And what’s really scary is there is no due process. (more…)
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