The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) passed a Senate committee last year. If it becomes law, this flawed attempt to curtail online copyright infringement could spell big trouble for Internet freedom.
That same week, despite America’s open criticism of government censorship in China and Iran, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved an Internet censorship bill of its own: the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon effectively blocked the bill from passing the full Senate, but it could re-emerge this year.
Thankfully, an especially aggressive provision of the legislation that would have authorized the Department of Justice to create a formal list of offending sites was stripped this past fall. But the amended bill still contains features that would enable a de facto public “blacklist.” If it becomes law, COICA would not only be counterproductive to innovation and progress, but also diminish a constitutional right to free speech. Under this bill, entire websites could face serious repercussions if a court deemed copyright infringement “central to the activity of the website.” [Editor’s note: The original article failed to note a significant amendment to the bill this past fall and mischaracterized a potential penalty for websites.]