By Chris Pratt
Blacklisted domains and terminated websites are both possibilities if bill S.3804 becomes law. It is called “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) and it was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy on September 20, 2010.
Hard to imagine that the same man who could say:
“I commend Secretary of State Clinton for reaffirming our nation’s deep commitment to openness and freedom of expression on the Internet. The Internet has become a vital tool to protect and ensure the rights and basic freedoms of Americans and the human rights of people everywhere.”
Released by Leahy’s Office in January 2010
“Why did 9/11 happen on George Bush’s watch when he had clear warnings that it was going to happen?…. Had there been an independent congress, one that could ask questions, these questions would have been asked years ago. We’d be much better off…..”
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy — interview with Amy Goodman, 9/29/2006
is now proposing legislation that will allow the government to blacklist and close down websites engaged in “infringing activities.”
Although “infringing activities” are ill defined by this legislation, it appears that websites engaged primarily in copyright infringement are targets. Websites like mine and thousands of bloggers and documentarians who use the copyrighted material of others to develop their work could well be in Leahy’s cross hairs.
As a Citizen Journalist and a Citizen Filmmaker, I was so appalled by what I saw first under Republican rule and now under Democratic leadership that I produced a film, deceptions, with zero background and for less than $1,000. I then made this film available to the public on a website I created called www.deceptionUSA.com. Rady Ananda reviewed deceptions as a “brilliant clarion to save the Internet.”
If Leahy’s proposed legislation becomes law, however, my site could be closed down by the DOJ (Dept of Justice) for engaging in an “infringing activity.” You see I am not a professional movie man with oodles of film making know-how and financial backing. I am a citizen who would not have been able to produce this documentary without the use of material developed by others. What is missing from Leahy’s bill is any mention of “Fair Use,” which is part of section 107 of the Copyright Law and protects sites like mine where information is freely being rendered. I think it is called freedom of speech.
Under this provision the use of copyrighted material is not an infringement of copyright law if used for such things as the criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. Think about it, almost every invention, every non-fictional piece and many fictional works are based on someone else’s efforts. Most of the world’s advancements have occurred by standing on the shoulders of others. Up there we have a better view of what has happened or can prognosticate better about what might happen.
Without ‘fair use’, citizen journalists, citizen filmmakers, scholars, political satirists and several authors, composers and inventors would not have been able to produce much their work. This is why the ‘fair use’ provision exists and why it has survived years of court challenges. Hmm ….I wonder how You Tube, a website which relies heavily on copyrighted material uploaded by everyday citizens, would fair under Leahy’s Law?
Now, I have absolutely no problem with closing down sites that sell and profit from another’s work. That is called plagiarism and, last I knew, it is well condemned under intellectual property law. However, sites like mine and others, which exist solely for the purpose of engaging the public in critical thinking and awareness, should not be terminated by the government.
Come on! I am making NO money from other peoples work. I am a one man show, a registered non-profit; a tiny little David trying to fight a corporate Goliath and an ultra elite who are now attempting to control words as effectively as they have money.
Let’s add it up. If the original copyright holders do not have an issue with ANYTHING I have said and I am not profiting in any way, why should an appointed government official be blacklisting my domain and shutting down my website? There is only one reason for such an action and that is to prevent controversial viewpoints from being seen or heard.
CNN quotes Al Franken a Senator from Minnesota saying that net neutrality “is the foremost free speech issue of our time”
Leahy’s Law is a giant step into the Dark Ages of government censorship, a view which is shared by most open Internet advocates and a law that stands in sharp contrast to Leahy’s professed support of free speech.
But perhaps myself and thousands of others are all wrong, so tell me, Mr. Leahy, where does my website fall? Look at the film, look at the site, look at the credits and render your opinion. You are a lawyer, a former prosecutor and this is your legislation. This film and this site rely heavily on ‘fair use’ and the works of others. It definitely is engaged in infringing activities – should it be blacklisted and shut down? Or was your intention just to go after the counterfeiters? Please advise.
To Contact Senator Leahy’s office and join me in a clarification simply follow this link: http://leahy.senate.gov/contact/
You can also Petition the Senate.
Chris Pratt is a former systems analyst, a certified nutritionist, filmmaker and producer of the 2010 film deceptions, at www.deceptionsusa.com, and author/producer of the Brain Sense Program at www.brain-sense.org.