Standing Up to COICA

Temple law professor and cyberlaw guru David Post is leading the charge (by academics, at least) to oppose draft legislation titled “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.” I’ve signed on to the letter he’s drafted as I think that COICA is 1) a terrible idea and 2) blatantly unconstitutional. It’s another example of IP exceptionalism run amok. America dislikes Internet censorship, except when the stuff censored may violate intellectual property rights. Then, we’re all for it, as COICA shows. Every country has things that it feels, strongly, should naturally be off-limits to Internet users. In China, it’s political dissent; in Saudi Arabia, pornography; here in the States, potentially IP-infringing material. I’ve written about the need for process in making these determinations – in particular, that censorship must be open, transparent, narrow, and accountable. It’s a positive sign that COICA is being debated in Congress (open), but the remainder of the effort is highly troublesome. As the letter points out, the procedure for blocking a site is virtually certain to wipe out non-offending content (and potentially a lot of it), and the procedure is weighted heavily in favor of the complainant. Thus, COICA likely fails the narrowness and accountability prongs of my analysis. This is another example of what my friend Dan Hunter calls the political economy of intellectual property: public law regulation is the handmaiden of content owners, often regardless of countervailing concerns. I’m glad David is sounding the alarm.

One Response to “Standing Up to COICA”

  1. The people behind WL used to be all anonymous, but to raise money they came out of hiding. I guess their timing was off. This is a “speeding ticket” style of justice. You get a speeding ticket because you “might” cause harm from speeding. It’s a hypothetical that govts can enforce on civilians to discourage potentially harmful acts. However, the parade of hypotheticals being very large, one must be on the lookout for potential abuse by authorities. This tug-of-war tends to get redone with each generation because the incentives for the govt are so huge.