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US gives itself power to take down foreign sites

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a controversial new bill that allows the US Government to shut down web sites accused of on-line piracy.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) will essentially allow the US government to seize the domain of a web site it reckons is hosting copyright-infringing material. It'll be able to do this for any sites operating abroad but registered in the US by tapping up the registrar. For those sites not registered in the US, the legislation gives the authorities the power to order ISPs to block access.

The bill, proposed by Senator Patrick Leahy, was approved by the committee after a serious round of lobbying by the representatives of content providers like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

A smug MPAA said in a statement: “We believe that Congress and the administration can make a significant contribution to that effort by turning the Leahy-Hatch bill into law and giving law enforcement significantly enhanced tools for addressing a threat that deprives American innovators of the fruits of their labours and menaces our nation's economic health."

An alternative reading of the bill is proposed by the P2P outfit Demonoid. "If passed, this law will allow the government, under the command of the media companies, to censor the internet as they see fit, like China and Iran do, with the difference that the sites they decide to censor will be completely removed from the internet and not just in the US," a posting on the outfit's homepage reads.

One of the first targets of the legislation will no doubt be Wilileaks, possibly under the pretext that the thousands of reports of atrocities committed by the US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq belong to the US military.

The Huff-and-puffington Post has a good old moan about the 'censorship bill' here, along with a petition of protest our US reader might care to sign.