Groups slam online piracy efforts

A coalition of progressive activists and conservative bloggers slammed the bipartisan push to crack down on online piracy backed by organized labor and the entertainment industry on Monday, calling it an encroachment on freedom of speech.

Lawmakers from both parties are scheduled to hold a press conference at the Capitol Monday, where they are expected to renew their push for new online piracy laws that give feds greater authority to shut down sites that host or link to pirated content.

The effort will likely resemble the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which was introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and passed the committee last year. The White House has backed the effort and recommended stiffer penalties for online piracy convictions.

But the progressive activist organization Demand Progress and a group of conservative bloggers lead by Republican National Committee Internet Director Patrick Ruffini are staunchly opposed to the bill and the administration's recent moves to seize and shut down domains linking to pirated content.

"The core conservative principles of small government and basic individual freedoms should not be abandoned on the Internet," Ruffini said. "COICA represents a dangerous new encroachment of the government into our digital lives."

"In their attempts to reign in online file-sharing, Hollywood moguls are once again willing to risk massive censorship," said Demand Progress and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz.

"COICA's passage would be a tremendous blow to free speech on the Internet –– and likely a first step towards much broader online censorship."

The groups specifically point to the recent wave of domain-name seizures by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which they term "legally questionable."

They argue the government appears to be targeting sites "that merely link to, but do not house, infringing content: this was not previously understood to be a crime." The groups also note that DHS and ICE have admitted to accidentally shutting down some non-infringing sites in the process.