Who says Congress never gets anything done? 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.Taken from WIRED Magazine