Senate Piracy Bill Changed in the Face of Criticism

We were just discussing the Senate’s new piracy bill, COICA, at last night’s CopyNight here in DC.  In the wake of that and EFF’s action alert yesterday, I was glad to see this bit of good news, via Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post. Despite a slow start to the public reaction, I was witness firsthand to a couple of letters from groups of engineers and NGOs taking issue with COICA either in parts or as a whole, it seems like public interest has made a difference.

As Kang reports, the Judiciary Committe made significant changes to the bill in response to strong criticism from technology companies, individual network engineers, ISPs and public interest groups. The bill is far from dead and having not read the draft, it is hard for me to say whether this de-fangs it or not. Based on the list of changes Kang includes in her article, it does seem like some of the most troubling aspects, those that would interfere with network operation, have been weakened or removed. An addition also would bring some liability protection for 3rd parties, a notion that has proved a better balance for other enforcement legislation like the DMCA.

Senate piracy bill changed after criticism by ISPs, engineers, public advocates, Washington Post

4 Replies to “Senate Piracy Bill Changed in the Face of Criticism”

  1. The changes also make the domain name blacklist (which is just as mandatory as it was before) a *secret*. Totalitarian-regime-style. Kind of an important point to overlook.

    1. I was rushing, as I tend to do with the sole hour I can spare for my daily blogging. However, Kang’s wording didn’t raise a red flag as she emphasized the requirement to publish and left for inference that a list would still be maintained. In skimming through the release, that black list isn’t called out in so many words, rather it is implied by the requirement that once a hostname is acted against, ISPs and registrars are required to continue blocking resolution. The change to which she and you refer is a tweak from the section stating that the AG “may” publish the list, whereas the former draft must have said “shall”.

      It is still possible that the AG would indeed publish the list, though I certainly agree that softening that requirement is troubling. Why on earth would making it possible for the blacklist to be secret be consistent with the other changes made to address public concern? Perhaps the authors were thinking it would be easily overlooked or that they’d take something in the exchange, in making this compromise.

      Several of the folks I’ve talked to at public interest groups who wrote or signed onto letters leading to this change really struggled with whether they should oppose the bill outright or push for changes, usually a more modest and achievable goal. This draft has been moving so quickly it has left little time for consideration even from NGOs who are dedicated to red lining drafts and making detailed responses and recommendations.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I get what you’re saying, but common political sense dictates that If it is possible for the blacklist to be secret, it will be secret. No one should be under any illusions about that.

        1. Don’t get me wrong. I was just calling attention to the twisty way the language changed. I totally agree in terms of how this is most likely to play out in practice. I feel foolish for having missed it but less so for how obfuscated the change was.

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