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Consumer Groups Warn: Anti-Piracy Law Creates Destructive Blacklist

From computer-makers to libraries, a broad swath of groups says the legislation could come back to bite us

Legislation that would give the U.S. more power to shut down piracy websites is running into opposition from a broad coalition of consumer-minded groups who say the proposal is overly broad and riddled with nasty pitfalls — including a "blacklist" that could unjustly shut down American sites.

In a letter dated Monday, the groups — including consumer electronics and computer makers, internet advocacy groups, libraries and others — called on the bill’s sponsors not to rush things; the bill is due before the Judiciary Committee, and groups want sponsors to schedule a fuller committee hearing later.

“Although [we] support the objectives of the ‘Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,’ the bill raises numerous legal, political, and technical issues,” the letter read. “If left unresolved, these issues could harm consumers, educational institutions, innovative technologies, economic growth and global Internet freedom.”

The bill, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would allow copyright holders to report offenders to the Justice Department, which would create two lists of sites. Internet service providers would be required to block access to the worst sites and would get legal immunity to bar access to a list of sites that weren't quite as bad.

The groups suggest that as drafted the legislation creates several problems, including an Justice Department blacklist with little oversight; and creating a legal slope that could lead to other countries unjustly blocking American sites.

The letter was signed by the Consumer Electronics Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Library Association, the Home Recording Rights Coalition, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, Public Knowledge and several other groups.