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Website Takedown Bill to be Reintroduced

May 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

COICA, the Democrats’ bill from last year to let the government shutdown websites they deem to be involved in copyright infringement, has been rewritten and made even broader. Ars Technica reports that the bill will be introduced soon, under a new name, the “PROTECT IP Act,” and with some new provisions that would require search engines to get involved in the domain blocking game as well.

The PROTECT IP Act makes a few major changes to last year’s COICA legislation. First, it does provide a more limited definition of sites “dedicated to infringing activities.” The previous definition was criticized as being unworkably vague, and it could have put many legitimate sites at risk.

But what the PROTECT IP Act gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. While the definition of targeted sites is tighter, the remedies against such sites get broader. COICA would have forced credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa to stop doing business with targeted sites, and it would have prevented ad networks from working with such sites. It also suggested a system of DNS blocking to make site nominally more difficult to access.

The PROTECT IP Act adds one more entity to this list: search engines. Last week, when the Department of Homeland Security leaned on Mozilla to remove a Firefox add-on making it simple to bypass domain name seizures, we wondered at the request. After all, the add-on only made it easier to do a simple Google search, and we wondered “what the next logical step in this progression will be: requiring search engines to stop returning results for seized domain names?”

Turns out that’s exactly what’s being contemplated. According to the detailed summary of the PROTECT IP Act, this addition “responds to concerns raised that search engines are part of the ecosystem that directs Internet user traffic and therefore should be part of the solution.”

Although COICA was a Democratic proposal, sponsored by Sen. Pat Leahy [D, VT], it had a handful of Republican co-sponsors. It had the backing of both Republican-leaning groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Democratic-leaning groups like the Motion Pictures Association of America and some unions. With the Congress now split between the two parties, this could be the year for pushing through a bipartisan, big-business-backed bill like this. Unless, of course, internet users and content producers put up a fight.

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Comments

  • uncleray 05/11/2011 2:45pm

    How about focusing on protecting jobs, ensuring a stable energy supply,
    addressing our national debt?
    At least we see where Congress’ priorities lie.

  • valleri 05/11/2011 9:16pm

    I agree with uncleray in that Congress needs to be focusing on jobs. But possibly, and I mean possibly, if our own domestic IP laws are strengthened then we can lean on China to do the same. Job creation is key, but neither political party seems to have the stomach to do what needs to be done – modify our trade agreements with China so that our manufacturing base can stabilize and grow.

  • dbroncos 05/11/2011 10:12pm

    Nonsense, that sounds like the right thing to do.

  • jlutz2007 05/12/2011 12:21pm

    “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

    - Thomas Jefferson

    The internet is the last bastion of free speech, free press and open, honest debate. The media has been usurped by big corporations and government. If we let the internet be taken over, then any hope for true freedom will be smashed.

    “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

    - George Orwell

  • fakk2 05/12/2011 6:42pm

    Definitely agree jlutz2007!

    Just imagine the worst case scenario: You own a website that sells widgets, and for ANY reason they choose the government decides one day to shut down. Maybe your competitor donated more than you did to the President’s PAC. Maybe you have something stating the federal government is tyrannical. Maybe, you have something religious on there, like selling Bibles. Whatever the reason is, now they can seize your domain name, stop people from going to your site, and stop anyone from searching your domain name in any search engine. If they violate your rights, why should they care? It’s not like anyone can search for it online.

    Yes, it is a “worst case scenario”, but it starts with laws like the one above, first they build the structure, then they shut the trap door and make you a prisoner.

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