Over-Reaching Government?

Few media outlets are discussing a bill that is currently gaining traction in the US Senate. It is S. 3804:Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. The desciption of this bill is:

Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act – Amends the federal criminal code to authorize the Attorney General (AG) to commence an action for injunctive relief against a domain name used by an Internet site that is “dedicated to infringing activities,” even where such a domain name is not located in the United States. Defines an Internet site that “dedicated to infringing activities” as a site that is: (1) subject to civil forfeiture; (2) designed primarily to offer goods or services in violation of federal copyright law; or (3) selling counterfeit goods. Requires the AG to maintain a public listing of domain names that the Department of Justice (DOJ) determines are dedicated to infringing activities but for which the AG has not filed an action. Allows parties to petition the AG to remove such a domain name from the list and obtain judicial review of the final determination in a civil action.

Why should you be concerned? According the The Raw Story,

Critics say the bill is both a giveaway to the movie and recording industries and a step towards widespread and unaccountable censorship of the Internet.

Opponents note that the powers given the government under the bill are very broad. Because the bill targets domain names and not specific materials, an entire Web site can be shut down. So for example, if the US determines that there are copyright-infringing materials on YouTube, it could theoretically block access to all of YouTube, whether or not particular material being accessed infringes copyright.

Activist group DemandProgress, which is running a petition against the bill, argues the powers in the bill could be used for political purposes. If the whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks is found to be hosting copyrighted material, for instance, access to WikiLeaks could be blocked for all US Internet users.

This appears to be a shut down the site and make the owner prove their innocence approach rather than making the government prove guilt.

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