Cyberspace Headline

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act

S. 3804: The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, was introduced in the U.S. Senate on September 20, 2010.  Sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the bill is supported by the Motion Picture Association of America, US Chamber of Commerce, Screen Actors Guild, Viacom, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, and Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States.  In opposition are the Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Distributed Computing Industry Association.

The bill’s stated main purpose is “To combat online infringement.”  The plan is to do the following:

  • U.S. based sites – domain registrars would be required to take down sites that appear to be engaging in piracy.
  • Non-American sites – Internet Service Providers would be pushed to block the piracy engaging domain from access.

It sounds like a noble goal, but then why are so many people concerned about its possible ramifications?  Take a look at the bill’s supporters again.  It is not surprising that the major movie studios are interested in routing piracy, but is there something more to it?  At least one website thinks so.  The site alleges that movie studios are working on a new service that will enable people to watch movies via web stream before the movies come out on DVD or Blu-Ray.  The service could be a big money maker for the studios, since it is reported that buying rights to watch the stream could cost $30 a pop.  Without a doubt, access to websites that host torrent files of the movies will thwart the movie companies from truly capitalizing on potential profits from the new service.  But the old question remains: Will this new bill actually lead to dramatic change?  And will it not take away from certain freedoms through censorship?  There has to be concern that the new law will also inadvertently shut down access to legitimate, legal sites.

To read S. 3804 in its entirety, click here.