Like a predecessor proposal, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, the Protect-IP Act targets sites that are "dedicated to infringing activities." The measure empowers the Department of Justice to obtain orders prohibiting Internet service providers from putting through traffic to those sites' URLs. Web users, however, could still reach the sites by typing in their numerical addresses.
The Protect IP Act also provides for court orders forcing Google, Bing and other search engines to stop returning certain results.
The American Library Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch and other organizations specifically condemned the idea that ISPs could be ordered to redirect traffic. "We continue to believe that such a provision would be ineffective and runs contrary to the US government's commitment to advancing a single, global Internet," they said in a letter to lawmakers. "Its inclusion risks setting a precedent for other countries, even democratic ones, to use DNS (Domain Name System) mechanisms to enforce a range of domestic policies, erecting barriers on the global medium of the Internet. Non-democratic regimes could seize on the precedent to justify measures that would hinder online freedom of expression and association."
A group of Internet engineers, meanwhile, says that DNS filtering "would be minimally effective and would present technical challenges that could frustrate important security initiatives."
What's more, they say, "it would promote development of techniques and software that circumvent use of the DNS," which would undermine the Internet's ability to serve as a "single, unified, global communications network."
For now, the measure is on hold, thanks to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore). He put the brakes on the bill after it unanimously cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective," he said in a statement. "At the expense of legitimate commerce, [the bill's] prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet."