November 19, 2010, 6:42 PM — One day after the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would give the federal government power to shut down websites it deems to be engaging in copyright infringement -- without having to first prove it -- a Democratic senator said he intends to stop the legislation in its tracks (at least for this year).
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden says he will seek to block the proposed measure known as the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. Individual senators have the right to put "holds" on legislation, effectively kicking them down the road. Such a maneuver means supporters of the bill won't be able to reintroduce it until the next Congress invades Capitol Hill.
As Wired's Sam Gustin describes it, COICA "is among the most draconian laws ever considered to combat digital piracy, and contains what some have called the 'nuclear option,' which would essentially allow the Attorney General to turn suspected websites 'off.'"
Wyden doesn't think this is a good idea. From Raw Story:
"Deploying this statute to combat online copyright infringement seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile," Wyden said.
The proposed law is opposed by a wide-ranging coalition of public interest groups, Internet free-speech advocates, legal scholars and human rights organizations. World wide web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee also has strongly condemned the measure.
Not surprisingly, bill co-sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, doesn't see what the problem is. From Raw Story:
"Few things are more important to the future of the American economy and job creation than protecting our intellectual property," he said. "That is why the legislation is supported by both labor and industry, and Democrats and Republicans are standing together."
Leahy's right about the first part, but giving the AG carte-blanche to be judge, jury and executioner is no way to go about it.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.