[xtypo_dropcap]T[/xtypo_dropcap]he Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 20. If passed, the bill could ban access to websites that violate copyright infringement laws.
The S. 3804 bill aims to stop online piracy and distribution of films, music, TV shows, and video games and was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
There is some controversy surrounding the bill, as it would block certain websites and create two Internet blacklists.
One list would include websites hit with a court order from the Attorney General, and the other list would consist of sites that are “dedicated to infringing activities,” as determined by the Department of Justice, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
“COICA is a fairly short bill, but it could have a longstanding and dangerous impact on freedom of speech, current Internet architecture, copyright doctrine, foreign policy, and beyond,” says an EFF analysis. “In 2010, if there’s anything we’ve learned about efforts to rewrite copyright law to target ‘piracy’ online, it’s that they are likely to have unintended consequences.”
There are several websites that allow users to watch films for free online—including nearly all films still in theaters. There are also sites which allow users to download films and other media through peer-to-peer file sharing. Both forms of online piracy could be largely shut down by the bill.
Because of this, the bill has won praise from guilds and unions representing more than 300,000 workers in the entertainment and media industries.
“This legislation will make it easier to shut down ‘rogue’ websites, which are dedicated to stealing the films, television programs, and music created by our members,” says a joint statement from the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America, and several others.
It adds that, “The largely foreign profiteers who operate these sites rob our members of the ability to make a living from their creativity and labor, prevent funds from reaching their pension and health plans, and endanger their ability to work now and in the future.”