[A2k] On the US SenateJudiciary committee....

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Thu May 26 13:02:04 PDT 2011

Draconian Anti-Piracy Censorship Bill Passes Senate Committee

The controversial PROTECT IP Act unanimously passed the Senate
Judiciary Committee today. When the PROTECT IP Act becomes law U.S.
authorities and copyright holders have the power to seize domains,
block websites and censor search engines, to prevent copyright
infringements. Introduced just two weeks ago, the bill is now heads
over to the Senate for further consideration and another vote.

censoredThe U.S. Government continues to back legislation that opens
the door to unprecedented Internet censorship.

Two weeks ago a group of U.S. senators proposed legislation to make it
easier to crack down on so-called rogue websites, and today the
Senate’s Judicial Committee unanimously approved the bill.

When the PROTECT IP Act becomes law the authorities can legitimately
seize any domain name they deem to be facilitating copyright
infringement. All that’s required to do so is a preliminary order from
the court. But that’s just the start, the bill in fact provides a
broad range of censorship tools.

In case a domain is not registered or controlled by a U.S. company,
the authorities can also order search engines to remove the website
from its search results, order ISPs to block the website, and order
ad-networks and payment processors to stop providing services to the
website in question.

Backers of the bill argue that the PROTECT IP Act is needed as an
extension of the already controversial domain seizures. As reported
previously, it is now relatively easy for a seized website to continue
operating under a new non-US based domain name.

Not everyone agrees with this stance. Yesterday several Internet
giants including Google, Yahoo, eBay and American Express asked the
Senate Committee not to adopt the bill, warning it would “undoubtedly
inhibit innovation and economic growth.”

However, the concerns the companies raised did not affect the vote today.

“Today the Judiciary Committee took an important step in protecting
online intellectual property rights. The Internet is not a lawless
free-for-all where anything goes,” commented Senator Orrin Hatch. “The
Constitution protects both property and speech, both online and off.”

“The PROTECT IP Act targets the most egregious actors, and is an
important first step to putting a stop to online piracy and the sale
of counterfeit goods,” Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said
commenting on the importance of the bill.

“Both law enforcement and rights holders are currently limited in the
remedies available to combat websites dedicated to offering infringing
content and products. These rogue websites are often foreign-owned and
operated, or reside at domain names that are not registered through a
U.S.-based registry or registrar,” Leahy added.

Similar comments were made by the other Committee members and the
various entertainment industry lobby groups.

For Hollywood and the major record labels The PROTECT IP Act is the
legislation they dreamed of for a long time. It allows for copyright
holders to obtain a court order to seize a domain, or prevent payment
providers and ad-networks from doing business with sites that
allegedly facilitate copyright infringement. All without due process.

The PROTECT IP Act will now move on to the Senate where it’s expected
to be opposed by Senator Ron Wyden, who also stopped the bill’s
predecessor COICA fearing it would stifle free speech. Whether it will
be enough to prevent the legislation from becoming law has yet to be

Manon Anne Ress
Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA
manon.ress at keionline.org

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