The government is shutting down Web sites and it looks like they don’t need a law on the books to claim the authority to micromanage the Internet on behalf of Big Media companies.
We reported on it over the weekend, but there are more details coming out that have some people wondering if this is the beginning of the end of Internet free speech.
Judging by their actions the feds didn’t want to wait for the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) to go through the proper channels in the Senate before they seized control of the Internet. They also didn’t want to wait for a court order either.
Apparently their controllers in the Big Media companies are not patient people.
At least 76 web domains have been shut down by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It looks like Internet piracy and copyright violation is the newest threat to the security of our nation, at least that’s what they’ll probably claim.
Why else would DHS shutdown web domains without a court order? Oh, right the Patriot Act. It allows DHS to do whatever they need to do to keep us “safe” without any need for court orders or official laws on the books.
Many of the downed web domains were sites that dealt in counterfeit name goods, some linked to copyright-infringing file sharing areas, and one of the sites was a Google-like search site. They shut down a search engine that tells people where to possibly find copyrighted material, but does not host any material on the site.
Can you see why people are worried that this is the beginning of government censorship of the (our) Internet?
And as you probably have heard, all of the seized web domains have a government warning (to scare us into obedience) that says copyright violators can get up to five years in prison.
Here’s a nice quote from the Raw Story that sums up the issue nicely.
"When a site has no tracker, carries no torrents, lists no copyright works unless someone searches for them and responds just like Google, accusing it of infringement becomes somewhat of a minefield," writes Torrentfreak, "Unless you’re ICE Homeland Security Investigations that is."
The authority for DHS to shut down whatever sites it wants without a court order supposedly comes from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a Clinton administration law that allows web addresses to be shut down when someone (Big Media) claims there is a copyright violation.
Critics and free speech advocates hate this law because it is too vague and far-reaching. Nobody has to prove that there is a copyright infringement; DMCA allows sites to be taken by the government without any hard evidence.
You might be wondering why the government thinks it needs COICA if they can already take down Web sites whenever they want. Well you see, COICA would allow the government to block users from accessing Web sites that are based anywhere in the world.
Right now they can only block users from accessing sites that are based in the United States. Since people in other countries value free speech and the sharing of information they feel they have to expand their power to keep us from accessing things from other countries.
Sounds like a power grab to me. But I’m sure we’ll be reminded that it’s for our own good and that we should just accept it.
Copyright infringement and intellectual property are the arguments being used to censor the Internet. It must be nice to have the government protect your business model and your profits even though innovation and technology breakthroughs have basically made you obsolete.
It looks like Big Media (and Big Brother) have won. Enjoy free speech while it lasts because the Internet will probably resemble the mainstream media soon. Only popular speech will be protected, dissenters will be censored accordingly.