The PROTECT IP Act (previously known as COICA) is the US gov’s latest proposed law to fight copyright infringement sites such as torrent trackers (e.g., thepiratebay.com). Now Google is saying that the Act’s latest revision is overbroad in scope, has huge potential for hurting innocent parties, and otherwise violates our constitutional right to Free Speech.
Last week TechDirt analyzed the Act’s text and noted that the latest revision, in fact, fails to provide any limitation on what would be considered an “infringing site;” thus potentially criminalizing music blogs and maybe even YouTube. Moreover, the Act seems to significantly encourage registrars and registers to voluntarily take-down sites based on questionable complaints by providing the registrars and registers full immunity from liability to a falsely accused (and now economically damaged) website owner.
Finally, and this probably ruffled Google’s feathers:
Also on the “horribly ugly” side of things is the extension of this bill to cover search engines. That is, when the Attorney General uses the law, one of the things that can be done is obtaining an order saying search engines must no longer link to certain sites. This seems like a massive form of meddling in how a search engine operates.
This prompted Google’s Eric Schmidt to confirm that any such encroachment on search engines’ free speech rights would be fought in court:
“If there is a law that requires DNSs [domain name systems, the protocol that allows users to connect to websites], to do X and it’s passed by both houses of congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it…”
Editor’s Note: While I recognize the good intentions behind the government’s new Act, I also worry about its ability to violate website owners’ due process rights or otherwise stifle tech growth with its overbroad protection mechanisms and shotgun approach to notice/take-down procedures.
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