2010-09-29

Internet Censorship: it's for the good of the children!

Congress is back at it again, seeking to censor the internet one site at a time with the "Combating Online Infringement and Couterfeits Act" (or COICA in Washingtoneese). In short, this bill would allow the Attorney General and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block internet users from reaching certain websites. Which websites? For now the target is websites where it's possible to "pirate" copyrighted material. The bill would allow for the creation of two lists of blocked sites: the Attorney General's list and a DOJ list. For a site to be on the former list a court order against the site must be obtained; to get on the latter list, no judicial oversight is required (but your site will be just as blocked nonetheless).

If you happen to think this is a good idea, that copyright pirates ought to be shut down, please explain to me why this bill is necessary when we already have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which, while onerous in its own right, is sufficient for copyright holders to protect their content. At the very best, COICA is a duplication of previous protections; at worst it's a foot in the door for the government to decide which websites are allowed to exist. Today the excuse is copyright protection; tomorrow it will be hate speech and putting a digital muzzle on anyone who, for example, re-states the perennial Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil. The end-game will be that every website or update to a website will have to be cleared by the thought police. Does this sound like a good idea to you?
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