Controversial Internet Censorship Bill Introduced In House

October 26, 2011

Several House members have introduced a controversial bill that could interrupt access to legal websites and compromise the stability and security of the Internet itself.

This bill would allow the Justice Department to blacklist Internet sites that allegedly facilitate intellectual property rights infringement, and not only cut them off from U.S. advertisers and financial services like credit cards, but regulate ISPs and search. This is accomplished in part through mandated manipulation of the Internet domain name addressing system (DNS). Current law (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) already contains an effective notice and takedown process in which U.S. search engines and websites remove massive amounts of infringing material every day.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, which fights Internet filtering and censorship at home and abroad, opposes this proposed Internet regulation because it will be ineffective at stopping the worst piracy offenders, yet unfortunately will create a host of new technical concerns that impact government initiatives to protect national security.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“There are ways to reduce infringement without compromising the stability and security of the Internet. Those who understand how the Internet navigation system works, realize this bill is akin to trying to block phones calls by ripping a page from a phone book. Those intent on reaching infringing content online can still get there. What this bill instead will do is create security issues on the Internet for everyone and Balkanize Internet traffic. While this presents risks for all Internet users, it also undermines both our own foreign policy against Internet censorship and our national security policy, which monitors the Internet for terrorist threats. By pushing Internet routing overseas and casting a broad net that will snare legitimate websites, the Internet is less secure – and so is the country.

“This Hollywood-backed bill is just not ready for release. Rushing through a bill that offers few real gains for one sector of the economy, while harming so many other legitimate US companies in these economic times is unwise. Even worse, this parochial legislation contradicts US trade policy, foreign policy and existing programs aimed at protecting national security.

“Common ground on legislation to combat copyright infringement is possible without serious collateral damage on the Internet. But to get there, more members of Congress need more complete information on how the Internet works and its vulnerabilities. The bill needs fixes based on recommendations of Internet engineers and cybersecurity experts who have written to Congress about their serious concerns.

“In many ways this bill is even worse than its Senate compatriot. It completely rewrites DMCA safe harbors that have allowed the Internet industry to flourish, its ambiguous definitions have the potential to frustrate large and small IT operations alike, and it lowers legal standards for censorship that have been expressly rejected by the Supreme Court. This bill is a disaster.”

The following can be attributed to CCIA Vice President Cathy Sloan:

“This legislation short circuits efforts to ensure members of Congress understand the baseline requirements for the smooth, secure functioning of the global Internet.

“The tech industry has worked together in the past with the recording and movie industry to reduce piracy through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But this new bill is inconsistent with parts of the DMCA, which contains no obligations to monitor or filter Internet content. The DMCA safe harbors and notice and takedown provisions have been considered effective enough at reducing real copyright infringement that we have signed several trade agreements this year based on the DMCA.”

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