Protect IP Act Would Allow Government to Block Websites

Monday, May 16, 2011

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Americans may soon find themselves blocked from accessing websites the governments has deemed as violating copyright protections if Congress passes the Protect IP Act 2011, otherwise known as the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property.

Under the provisions in the Act, users accessing the Internet from American-based service providers would be blocked from websites that publish links to pirated versions of music and movies or that are known to sell counterfeit versions of name-brand goods.

The bill would essentially cut off U.S. Internet users from accessing any website the government decides is blatantly in violation of copyright infringements, as well as any site that attempts to mirror the offender's content.

The legislation would also require search engines to eliminate references to the offending sites from their search indexing, as well as require advertising networks and payment services to cease business with the blacklisted sites.

"The Protect IP Act targets the most egregious actors, and is an important first step to putting a stop to online piracy and sale of counterfeit goods. Both law enforcement and rights holders are currently limited in the remedies available to combat websites dedicated to offering infringing content and products," said Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem - VT).

The Protect IP Act is a revamp of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) that was narrowly defeated in a vote late in 2010.

The changes made to the proposed legislation were not enough to satisfy critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who worry such efforts will have the government overstepping their authority and unnecessarily infringing on civil rights.

"We are no less dismayed by this most recent incarnation than we were with last year's draft," said Abigail Phillips, senior staff attorney at the EFF, who feels that the Protect IP ACT raises "serious First Amendment concerns about lawful expression". 

The bill would allow the Justice Department to decide which websites were in violation of copyright laws, as well as provide the opportunity for copyright holders to file for court orders to have infringing websites blacklisted and blocked.

The Act appears to make provisions that would allow for blocked websites to appeal inclusion in the blacklisted sites, but only after such a designation occurs. IT is unclear whether a website would remain unblocked until the appeal has been evaluated.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13387795

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