Congress Can Learn from ICE Seizures


Abigail Phillips
EFF
February 16, 2011

“COICA”, Senator Leahy’s Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, is back. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the legislation tomorrow morning.

As a reminder, COICA would give the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, most notably the ability to meddle with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and make entire websites effectively disappear, along with noninfringing content and lawful speech.

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The bill’s main tool for targeting alleged infringement is suspension of domain names. We’ve gotten an early glimpse of how this provision might play out through recent enforcement efforts by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) involving the seizure of domain names. The latest ICE action highlights an important point about COICA: the bill would take a seizure mechanism available under criminal copyright law and make it explicitly available in a civil context as well.

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