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Movie Industry’s Push for ISP Site-Blocking Legislation Sparks Controversy Over Internet Censorship

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The US Motion Picture Association (MPA), a trade association representing half a dozen huge film and TV studios, is gearing up for a big campaign to get lawmakers to pass legislation that would force ISPs to block sites – yet another way the industry hopes to fight its long “war on piracy.”

Association CEO Charles Rivkin revealed that this essentially lobbying effort of “working with Congress members” has the goal of mandating that internet providers must block sites accused of piracy.

Addressing the CinemaCon in Las Vegas, which gathers owners of movie theaters, Rivkin stated that “the next major phase” in what he said was an evolving danger of piracy is MPA “working with members of Congress to enact judicial site-blocking legislation here in the United States.”

Not so fast, says the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Their key argument: it isn’t up to MPA to decide who is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment.

According to EFF, this is an example (and by no means the only one) of countries like the US effectively trying to “catch up” with those they criticize the most, like Russia and China. In this case, the push aims to “legalize” blocking websites accused of piracy at the ISP level.

And that, the group notes, is very different from issuing copyright infringement notices for specific content, which is a tool already available to the industry and doesn’t even require court approval.

Here, whole sites would be taken offline, making this power a new potent form of censorship – “the keys of the internet” would be given to MPA, as EFF put it. The idea was contained in the extremely controversial SOPA/PIPA laws and included not only ISPs but other low, fundamental levels of internet infrastructure like domain name registers and registrars, and more.

Completely by no coincidence, MPA was one of the major supporters of these laws, proposed over a decade ago. But even though the association signaled in the meanwhile it was abandoning this idea, in reality, lobbying in Washington continued, EFF said. And now, MRA’a Rivkin came out in the open with plans to push legislators to adopt a new law.

“Site-blocking legislation, whether called SOPA/PIPA, ‘no fault injunctions’, or by any other name, still threatens the free expression of all of citizens and creators,” the digital rights group said.

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