November 22nd, 2010

Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the Internet


Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the Internet

While the Internet may not be a series of tubes or a big truck you can dump stuff on, it is a place where an awful lot of folks spend time and energy building businesses. And as such, one of the most hotly debated topic is the idea of copyright. And who owns what on the Web.

Enter the US government and the attempted legislation of said copyright, the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (COICA, S.3804). Problem is that—as usual—the devil is in the details.

So what exactly does the Senate bill propose to do? Well, according to Ars Technica, here’s what COICA entails:

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA, S.3804) sets up a system through which the US government can blacklist a pirate website from the Domain Name System, ban credit card companies from processing US payments to the site, and forbid online ad networks from working with the site. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 19-0 this week, but it’s never going to pass the Senate before the end of the current Congress.

But according to the EFF, the bill isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out, it may very well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) is an Internet censorship bill which is rapidly making its way through the Senate. Although it is ostensibly focused on copyright infringement, an enormous amount of noninfringing content, including political and other speech, could disappear off the Web if it passes.

The main mechanism of the bill is to interfere with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS), which translates names like “www.eff.org” or “www.nytimes.com” into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate. The bill creates a blacklist of censored domains; the Attorney General can ask a court to place any website on the blacklist if infringement is “central” to the purpose of the site.

If that is truly the case, that could be horrible for the Internet as a whole. And that’s why a single Senator is standing up against the bill. And that stance stalled the legislation. The senator? Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

A bill that critics say would have given the government power to censor the Internet will not pass this year thanks to the Oregon Democrat, who announced his opposition during a recent committee hearing. Individual Senators can place holds on pending legislation, in this case meaning proponents of the bill will be forced to reintroduce the measure and will not be able to proceed until the next Congress convenes.

So Wyden, long a proponent of technology and the Internet—including co-sponsoring the Internet Tax Freedom Act—takes another step in helping ensure that the Internet remains an open, competitive environment. And that prevents the US from sliding down a slippery slope that could impact some of the freedoms we hold dear, like free speech.

For more on the story, see the Raw Story, Ars Technica, and PC World. BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow is tracking COICA as well.

(Image courtesy OregonDOT. Used under Creative Commons.)

(Hat tip Steven Walling)

Background that may help (or may not)

13 Responses to “Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the Internet”

  1. Ty Phillipi says:

    Thank you Ron Wyden! Is there an online petition to stop this bill? I am up in Seattle now (formerly an Oregon resident), how should I go about telling my congressman that I don’t want this to pass?

  2. John Brown says:

    While Sen. Wyden used the rules of the Senate in a way I approve of, it just shows how broken our legislative branch is.

    The bill was approved 19-0 by the Judiciary Committee, but a single senator simply announcing his opposition is enough to send it back into committee and stalling it for months? That’s crazy.

    Regardless, thanks Ron.

  3. [...] and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), I found out that last week Senator Ron Wyden became the hero of cyberspace and stopped what would have been the first blacklist on the internet. That didn’t stop ICE [...]

  4. Adron says:

    I’m officially a Wyden supporter now!!! This bill sounds disturbing in many way, just from the context, but as you digged into the details it sounds nightmarish!

  5. [...] political grandstanding? Well, this isn’t Wyden’s first time protecting the Internet. He’s stood up to COICA before. And he’s been a staunch proponent of net neutrality. Heck, he even wrote Section 230 of the [...]

  6. [...] Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the … (6) [...]

  7. [...] Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the … (7) [...]

  8. [...] Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the … (8) [...]

  9. Point the Way…

    If you could just maneuver me in the right thoroughfare, it would be applauded, thanks mucho….

  10. [...] Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the … (10) [...]

  11. [...] Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the … (11) [...]

  12. [...] Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the … (12) [...]


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