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COICA Blacklisted By Senator Wyden

By Chris Pratt

23 November, 2010
COTO Report

First the scary part. Leahy's Law, called Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeit Act (COICA), was introduced as a bill by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy on September 20 th . It was then referred to the Judiciary Committee which he chairs. On Nov. 18, the bill received a unanimous 19-0 vote in Leahy's committee and was headed to the Senate floor for a full vote. It was definitely on its way, until Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon stepped in.

Isn't it amazing? When the public is involved, legislative gridlock is the norm and nothing happens. Yet, when money is driving the process, a bill can be introduced on Sept. 20, sent to committee, and unanimously approved with no public input on November 18, then go to the floor for full Senate action in less than 60 days. Click this link for the list of Senators who unanimously approved this legislation .

Furthermore, three out of Leahy's top five campaign contributors are the multibillion dollar multimedia conglomerates who collectively have placed over $143,000 in his campaign coffers.

Although COICA appropriately targets bootleggers and pirates of music, video, drugs and the private labeling of others goods on the internet, it also would give government (the Attorney General, not the copyright holders) wide authority to blacklist and shut down sites for engaging in “infringing activities” which was left virtually undefined by this bill.  Thousands of legitimate “infringers” like myself, whose movie and websites build upon the works of others to raise public awareness and consciousness, could become victims of this law with no due process.

The potential for abuse is written all over this bill. In spite of a letter sent to Leahy by the ACLU and several others, Leahy and his friends pressed on. In spite of over 250,000 signatures on a petition to stop this legislation , Leahy and his friends pressed on.

Yet all of the state's elected officials were conspicuously quiet on the subject: Governor-elect Peter Shumlin, US Rep. Peter Welch, Senator Bernie Sanders and Windham County's state senator Jeannette White were all mum about COICA. Even Vermont's ACLU refers to Leahy as the Civil Libertarian of the Year.  Al Franken, an outspoken proponent of net neutrality, a free speech advocate and a Judiciary Committee member, said nothing. Where was he on this one?

What about press coverage?  After all, this is a free speech issue. Surely Vermont newspapers would be covering such a fundamental free speech issue.

Only the Brattleboro Reformer had the vision and the testicular fortitude to publish my opinions. The editorial staff of major Vermont newspapers all seemed to have locked arms with the National Newspaper Association which also endorsed this legislation. Many of the newspapers represented by NNA are owned by multibillion dollar media conglomerates who long ago sacrificed profit for free speech.

Leahy had it all — endorsements from all the affected money groups, he was the VT ACLU's Civil Libertarian of the year,  the press was in his pocket, there were to be no public hearings, and the bill was sitting in his own committee all set with unanimous committee approval — and then Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) appeared.

Senator Threatens to Block Online Copyright Bill
PC World : Grant Gross 11/19/2010

A U.S. senator has vowed to fight attempts to pass a controversial copyright protection bill that would allow the U.S. government to shut down websites suspected of hosting infringing materials.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said late Thursday that he would seek to block the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA, from passing through the full Senate, unless the legislation is changed.”

Without major work and the full sunshine of public scrutiny and discussion this bill should be blacklisted. Thank you Senator Wyden, Leahy had greased the skids on this one.

So if you feel so inclined, send a thank you note to this gentleman for having the vision and the courage to speak out for the public. Click here for contact info .

Chris Pratt is president of the Awareness Initiative, a former systems analyst, a filmmaker and producer of the 2010 film deceptions , at deceptionsusa.com , and author/producer of the Brain Sense Program at www.brain-sense.org .