California’s Lofgren wants Reddit user input for proposal

Are U.S. government agencies going beyond their legal boundaries by shutting down and seizing websites? One California lawmaker wants to frame legislation online that would limit how the federal government could enforce laws for reported copyright infringement and other Internet law violations.

The social news website, Reddit, might be a legislative forum for legislation proposed by U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren. Reddit was one of the biggest opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, which might have limited “free expression” for Internet users.

Lofgren contends that the most fertile ground for a new proposal could come from “crowdsourcing” Reddit users. The West Coast representative does not want to stop Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from shutting down violators, although she disagrees with seizures. Her idea is to make sure the government agencies are using fair treatment as they perform their duties.

ICE and DOJ have already seized an estimated 1,500 online sites, accused of offering counterfeit products and services or violating patent and copyright laws. The government enforcement is approved by entertainment executives who want help curbing copyright infringement.

Opponents of website seizures say the government is heavy handed with no consideration for the online businesses they disrupt or the users who visit them. The government provides no warning before seizing a site, including websites where free speech is regularly practiced.

SOPA and its companion legislation, the Protect IP Act, were shot down by legislators after massive online protests. Reddit was among a number of major websites that went dark for a day in opposition to the Internet control proposals.

Representative Lofgren wants websites to be put on notice before the U.S. government seizes them. Blindsided websites have no current defense from Internet enforcers who want to pull their plugs.

The Motion Picture Association of America did not applaud the Reddit legislative roundtable, although it did support open discussion about the issue.

Source: cio.com, “U.S. Lawmaker Asks Reddit for Ideas on Website Seizures,” Grant Gross, Nov. 19, 2012