Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gagging the Web

What's a COICA? Not an anatomical term, but yet another government-sponsored acronym for the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. According to some, it's needed to protect intellectual property, a term which often provokes cynicism regarding the intellectual properties of some intellectual property, but I'll save that for another post.

According to others, like Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, quoted at Raw Story this morning, it's 

almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile. 

As I read it, if any state AG finds something you wrote last year was insufficiently attributed or a thought or picture that belonged to someone else -- you're off the air along with everything else you've written. Is it just me, or does that sound as if it had been designed for misuse? Will any website critical of government or government officials or members of the same party as a state attorney general be sifted for some infraction that can justify it's obliteration or postpone publication indefinitely? Is this bill far too broad to be safe? Were we all born yesterday?

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed this bit of poorly digested legislation yesterday. (There's a metaphor here. Look for it.) It was passed unanimously and yet it won't be hanging over the heads of bloggers like some bloody sword just yet and we owe it to Wyden who used his senatorial option to place holds on pending legislation to force proponents to re-introduce the bill in the next session. I hope that by then the opposition will have made its case and shed enough light on the potential for politically-based government censorship.

Ron Wyden is a Democrat, but Democrats should perhaps avoid crowing about being the defenders of freedom of the press since the bill was co-sponsored by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, who described it as a bipartisan effort to protect property rights. Obviously there's no lack of support for putting such things above freedom of speech by Democratic senators.

A group calling itself Demand Progress is circulating a petition it hopes will make a difference, and now that we have a brief reprieve, perhaps it will. Perhaps you will agree.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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  • I'm with you on this, Fogg. While I do think it's important to protect intellectual property -- and I think about how much of my own writing is basically "stolen" by other websites, there is just too much room for abuse here. And I think we all know that where there's room for abuse, abuse will happen.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:00 PM  

  • Daniel Webster once said - "the strong notion that something must be done is the parent of many a bad measure...especially if it happens in an election year."

    Smart guy.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:14 AM  

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