Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act

- - copyright

Dear Copyright Advocate,
This letter is about a bill that has been introduced in the Senate that will combat online infringement of copyrighted works. It’s called the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” or “COICA”. ASMP encourages you to sign a petition in favor of the bill.
Though some photographers have already done this, our efforts have not been enough.
The opponents of this bill have been active in mobilizing the masses to speak out against it. The result of their efforts is that it seems like the public is against this bill. Yet, we all hear everyday about how websites are illegally posting your creative works for others to take and how this affects your livelihood.
This bill would benefit all artists and creators! TAKE ACTION TODAY! Stand up for your rights!


  1. Speak up on blogs and listservs. Artists who speak out in favor of the bill on a website are often verbally attacked. Musicians, photographers and other artists need your support on this effort. Post blogs and comments on your own websites or on websites where you see these attacks.
  2. Contact your Senator and House Representative. Tell your congressional representatives to vote YES to the bill. Tell them your story and how piracy and infringement affect you.

    To find and email your Senator, go here.
    To find and email your House Representative, go here.

  3. Tweet this: Stop online piracy of art, music, movies, books, all creative works. Vote yes to Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act #COICA
  4. Facebook this: The U.S. Congress is debating a bill that could help millions of artists around the world. If passed, the bill would allow the government to target and shut down “internet sites dedicated to infringing activities” which are “primarily designed” to access unauthorized copyrighted material. Tell your representatives to vote YES to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).


  1. Check out this short video by independent filmmaker Ellen Seidler as she talks about how websites that are illegally hosting her movie are profiting. Yet, she is losing money. This bill will help shut down websites like these.
  2. The bill will not target minor violations of copyright. It will target “internet sites dedicated to infringing activities” that are “primarily designed” to offer or provide access to copyrighted material “without the authorization of the copyright owner.”
  3. The Attorney General will be able to request a court order to suspend the domain names of U.S.-based infringing websites. For non-U.S.-based websites, the Attorney General will be able to request a court order to require the ISPs to block the website. Credit card companies and networks providing ads to these sites will also suspend all activity with the infringing sites.
  4. A list of all the domain names that are found to be infringing copyright protected content will be posted on a “publicly available Internet site, together with other relevant information, in order to inform the public.”

Last February we made you aware of Pilfered Magazine, an online magazine that freely took images from photographers without their permission and didn’t credit or compensate the photographers. Because of your emails, Tweets, and postings on blogs and Facebook, the magazine was shut down in a weekend and has never reopened.
It is important that we take collective action on this bill too. Pilfered is not the only website that hosts and offers infringing material. This bill will help remove other websites like Pilfered from the internet.

via, Jock Bradley

There Are 54 Comments On This Article.

    • @Josh Zytkiewicz, Quite simply the infringers could move their hosting outside the US and continue. Unless other countries adopt similar measures, that part of this provisions would be ineffective.

    • @Josh Zytkiewicz,
      What do you mean when you say ‘the government’? In this case, we’re talking about the US Attorney General requesting a court order. There’s not much point to having a government if it can’t do things to help the people….

      • @Scott Hargis, When I say government I mean any of the elected or appointed officials that create or enforce the laws of out nation.

        I think this law will set a dangerous precedent that it is acceptable or even proper to “disappear” entire domains when the content they carry is believed to be illegal. Yes, this bill is limiting itself to just copyright infringements, but what’s next? Child porn? Terrorism? Nudity? Dissent?

        We attack countries like North Korea and Iran for limiting access to the internet and here we are introducing a bill that does that very thing.

        • @Josh Zytkiewicz, Slippery slope: just because one thing happens does not imply that another will happen. Take a look at (in)famous pirated software websites; many simply bounced from one country to another until they found a place to thrive. This US bill would not eliminate activity, but it would make it tougher to profit from someone else in the US.

        • @Josh Zytkiewicz,
          Wait…you’re comparing this with government censorship? This is about stopping theft. Following your logic, we should repeal the laws prohibiting murder, because the next step might be a prohibition on arguing. If you steal from me, I want some recourse. In a civil society, laws are how we do that.

          • @Scott Hargis, I’m not comparing it to censorship I’m saying it is censorship.

            Let’s try this with a real world example. Say I run a company that sells TVs. I get the TVs I sell by stealing them from Best Buy. Best Buy doesn’t like this so the police come, arrest me for theft, and take back the TVs. I get a trial, I go to jail.

            But under a law like this Best Buy calls the police and something else happens. Anyone who calls my phone number gets a message that it’s been disconnected, my yellow page listings and any other advertising I have disappears, if you try to come to my store you can’t because the building has been destroyed. It’s like I never existed. And all without a trial.

            And worst of all it doesn’t actually prevent or stop me from selling my stolen TV’s. Because all I have to do is start a new business under a different name a few blocks away.

            • @Josh Zytkiewicz,
              And what exactly is the problem with this? People who steal things should be punished. If we had the ability to find IP thieves, and physically arrest them, then I’d say that’s the best recourse. But clearly we can’t — we’ve seen that over and over. And since most offenders are overseas, it’s even harder to deal with them.
              But we can shut them down online, at least in the US. Most photographers have a VERY difficult time dealing with overseas infringements anyway, so what’s really changing?

              Sure, I wish there were some “perfect” cure that would eliminate all infringement activity, throughout the universe. But I don’t really believe it exists. Better to do SOMETHING, than nothing.

              And just to re-iterate: if the Attorney General, whose apppointment must be ratified by my (and yours) elected representatives, can convince a judge, that a site is clearly violating the law, then I think everything you described, and more, is perfectly just.

  1. This sort of legal action seems to be championed by people who don’t fully understand what the internet is or where it is going. If you are losing significant amounts of money through stolen work, then maybe you should look at your online presence and figure out how to better protect your work (if people are simply using your photos and not profiting, get over it). I went on a number of your websites, and on one of them I was able to simply drag and drop photos from your portfolio on to my desktop (I deleted them, don’t worry). The digital marketplace can be a blessing if you know how to use it, and a curse if you don’t.

    If you are paranoid and pro copyright-law, then get an expensive flash site, stop posting photos to flickr, facebook, wordpress, or tumblr, and cross your fingers that somebody with a screen capture software doesn’t take a liking to your work… because if you don’t want the internet’s negatives, then you have to do away with all the positives as well.

    Also, Pirate Bay will have a server in orbit in a few years, and Google is soon to have servers at sea (and that means others will follow suit)… so this sort of legislation is doomed to begin with. Old-timey copyright law has not and will not transition seamlessly in to the digital age, and neither will analog-age incomes. People in creative fields need to embrace the inevitable shift, or they need to cut their losses and retire. Thats the uncomfortable truth.

    • @David N. Drake, So does that mean you have given up on Copyright? I know the US legal system is a playground for the rich, but are you implying photographers should simply give up?

      Obviously any work in digital form accessible to the world is “up for grabs”. Just because it is so easy does not make it right to do. Why do I get the feeling you are working with warez?

      • @Gordon Moat,
        I think what David N. Drake trying to say is you can either waste lots of time and resources in order to “fight” the internet or you can try to find a way to make it work in your favor.

        Take that independent filmmaker woman’s video APE linked to. Sure, these sites with all those links might be making money off other people’s work. That’s certainly not right. But I honestly don’t think she’s losing much (if any) money because this is happening.
        99% of people who download the movie off that site would probably never buy or rent it anyways. The question is, is that 1% really worth the effort?

        Internet piracy has been around for more than a decade now and all the laws and lawsuits haven’t helped much.

        • @John, I think I have found ways to use the internet to my advantage. Obviously piracy will never be eliminated, but if something will make it tougher, then I would support those efforts. As far as the time aspect, it is incredibly minimal now with some tools available to search for your own images.

          When laws fail us, that is when we should take matters into our own hands. In such instances, anything we do to infringers should be fair game, including using hackers to force an infringers off line.

          • @Gordon Moat,
            “When laws fail us, that is when we should take matters into our own hands.”? WTF? So you think it’s ok to use illegal methods to fight illegal activities? I’m sure I don’t have to spell out where this argument is going.

            • @John, When I see comments like your “Internet piracy has been around for more than a decade now and all the laws and lawsuits haven’t helped much.” It seems a bit defeatist, almost that we should just accept piracy. Obviously when piracy thrives, then laws are not effective. So what would you suggest, accept piracy, or fight it by whatever means possible?

            • @John, Actually, to try to be slightly positive with this thread, there is another alternative that has not yet become available. That alternative would be anti-piracy insurance. We could pay a premium for a policy that would compensate us for theft of our images. Then the insurance companies, who have vastly more financial resources than photographers, could go after the infringers. I think that would be a far better alternative than simply accepting piracy.

              • @Gordon Moat,
                I think first we need to be clear on what we’re talking about. With ‘piracy’ I’m referring to what’s usually associated with illegally downloaded music, movies etc. etc. . Here the problem is that people consume a content they have not paid for thus hypothetically depriving the creator(s) of said content of the financial compensation they are entitled to. I say ‘hypothetically’ because this rests upon the assumption that all those people would have paid for said content had there not been a ‘free’ alternative.

                This is what I’m referring to as the kind of piracy that has been around for more than a decade and can’t be fought effectively by sueing individual consumers of pirated content. There are just too many of them and ‘setting an example’ with a few indictments hasn’t helped much so far.
                What has helped is establishing legal alternatives like iTunes. Also, these days I can download or stream most artist’s songs directly from their official website. They seem to be selling records anyways.

                Copyright infringement in relation to photography is a different matter. Here the problem usually is not that people see a photograph without paying for it. The problem is, of course, that people use the photograph commercially without attaining a proper license. Of course I’m not proposing that one turn a blind eye at such infringements.

                As for ‘fight it by whatever means possible’ my answer is a definitive no. I do not believe in vigilante justice whether it’s in relation to piracy or any other crimes. When ‘laws fail you’ you can always try to change the laws (which is actually what APE’s post is originally about) or move somewhere where the laws suit you better. But you cannot illegally ‘take things into your own hands’ and claim moral superiority.

                • @John, The internet is very pervasive and world-wide, so there is not a functional way to “move somewhere where the laws” function better. I agree with Rob’s support of this new measure, though it seems to be catching a god deal of opposition. The bad part is that those opposing the new possible new law are offering no alternative than to suggest that the problem is so small it should simply be ignored. Sorry if I do not agree with that; when someone rips me off, I want some form of justice, whether it is my images, or any other property I own. The sad reality is that below a certain dollar amount, there is no legal support, and almost no way to effectively combat nor deter thieves.

    • @David N. Drake, Agreed. COICA is a clear violation of the first amendment, as it empowers the government to censor websites of its choosing. It would be a shame if, after looking at China’s advances the past decade, the one feature we chose to adopt was its great firewall.

      Passing the law would accomplish little in the short run, and less in the long run as it would inevitably be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. While Censorship proponents use false terms like theft to described alleged copyright infringement in an attempt to take the moral high ground, it instead reveals the authors as empty rhetoriticians that lack the ability to make cogent arguments.

  2. I have to chuckle a bit at the ironic defeatist attitudes.

    Where would we be as a country if we took the approach of why make changes and have liberties and freedoms. It is quite apparent why this is America, the land of the creative and innovative. There are those who prosper at the expense of others.

    Why allow them to infringe on your rights as a business person. If you really don’t care or are apethetic about the issue, please use my link to access my email address and send me your bank information. I will make it painless for you. You work and I’ll take your money to further my business and life.

    Lasting change doesn’t happen over night. Yes people like pirate bay will move to the UK or India. What we think is a new battle is not, it just has another name and look. Take the time not to be careless with your work and be involved with the profession which means you need to act like a professional, not an arrogant jacka$$.

  3. Glenn Stokes

    Easy to pass a law. Hard to enforce it.

    What we REALLY need is for companies that make web browsers fix their defective product so that:

    a) images can be tagged as copyrighted and this tagging can not be undone by anyone but the creator
    b) copyrighted images can not be downloaded
    c) copyrighted images can not be file saved
    d) copyrighted images can not be print screened
    e) copyright imaged can not be printed.

    About all that is left is someone could take a digital photograph of their screen.
    Just as anyone can put a photo on a copy machine and make a copy.

    Lastly, take the time to actually copyright your images and also add the (c) symbol and year and identity to your images. This does not prevent illegal use, but if you don’t do this you loose a valuable tool that authenticates the image really belongs to you.

    • @Glenn Stokes,

      I don’t see how you can completely protect online photographs, no matter what technology is used. If you can see it, you can copy it (and you don’t need to take a photo of the screen). I don’t think there’s any way a browser can prevent your OS from taking a screen grab. The best method I know kind of sucks: big watermarks.

      Think of all the attempts made to protect digital music and video–it’s always quickly foiled by hackers. I’m not

  4. Glenn Stokes

    Jim, I agree, it is not possible to prevent an image from being copied, whether it is on the internet, or in print. Making a file size very small is one way to make it practically useless for anything other than on the internet. Genuine Fractals can only do so much with a very small file.

    Anything and everything posted on places like facebook, can be used by facebook, or their associate partners, anyway they want, without giving you credit or payment (it is in their one way Terms and Conditions) even if you limit permissions.

    I remember in the film days photographers would rubber stamp in red or black ink the word “PROOF” on all wedding pictures so that they would not be duplicated by the client. Ugly, but everyone could see the essence of the photo and they understood why the rubber stamp was done because some people are not honest.

    If photos are one’s livelihood you can keep them on your hard drive so nobody sees them, and show them in person via a laptop or projector or print, or make them available for viewing on the internet, but in a format that makes them fairly protected and practically useless to anyone.

    If photos are not your livelihood and you just want to share with family and friends and not the whole world, then many photo storage sites can be set up so that the photos can be seen only after people you authorize login to the site. Then, photos are used without your permission this at least greatly reduces the source.

    Other more complex and costly options include imbedding hidden tracking data into the image data, and subscribing to a tracking service, but that goes beyond my scope of education right now


  5. The concern you should have is the lack of legal process. There is a legal system built on the presumption of innocence, with rights of appeal, and COICA seems to be throwing this away. Provide an ability for the entity accused of illegal activity to defend himself or prove his innocence. Otherwise you’ll lose what your founding fathers fought for.

    Disclaimer – I do not live in America, so the bill does not affect me directly, and I am not a professional photographer. I do support copyright, and can see that some sites are just dedicated to infringing other’s copyright.

  6. What a turd of a law. I’m not supporting this steaming pile of shit. Someone doesn’t know how the internet works. This is like some old man yelling that “someone oughta do somethin about all theses young peoples and their blah blah blah…”

    Pilfered magazine? Really? I saw that… it looked like every other tumblr out there. BFD, they have no money to give you.

    I’m disappointed that some of my asmp membership money is going to this. Read the law’s text – any asshole can claim their copyright is being ‘violated’ and without due process have a website taken down OR have its access blocked.

    I’m not for this kind of censorship and neither should you be.

    • @craig,

      Did you read it?

      It say’s “court ordered”, that would come after due process.

      It is bizarre that you and other posters believe that copyright enforcement is censorship.

      • @Victor John Penner,

        No, due process is a complaint is brought forth, should said complaint be found to be legally valid in a court of law, the site is taken down. This is how the law currently works.

        This mental abortion of a law circumvents the whole process in that the govt can, at whim, order the site blocked by an ISP under the auspices of a copyright complaint.

        “(b) Injunctive Relief- On application of the Attorney General following the commencement of an action pursuant to subsection (c), the court may issue a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, or an injunction against the domain name used by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities to cease and desist from undertaking any infringing activity in violation of this section, in accordance with rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A party described in subsection (e) receiving an order issued pursuant to this section shall take the appropriate actions described in subsection (e).”

        In other words –


        Fuck that and fuck this law.

        I like copyright. This is not the way to go about enforcing it.

        • @craig,

          Comprehension owns you.

          Someone infringes on your copyright, the AG goes to court….

          Do you think that the infringer doesn’t get their day in court? Where does it say that? Why would the AG’s office throw out the whole judicial system and due process?

          You are acting hysterical. Don’t make me send in the Black Ops.

          • @Victor John Penner,

            How do you think a temporary restraining order works?

            The day in court comes in the future. Until then you are SOL if some asshole decides to file a complaint against you for whatever reason. This could be legit, or it could be vengeful. Or – it could be a large corporation wanting to flex its muscles against some little person who embarrassed it.

            Quick, lets cue the “you have nothing to worry about if you done nothing wrong” sycophants.

            I have faith that this law is unconstitutional on the face of it, but I do not want my money behind it.

            • @craig,

              You don’t think that they investigate first? They just go to court and get a restraining order?

              There is a complaint filed. They investigate to see who holds the copyright. Probably the complainant. They investigate. They go to court and get an order.

              I don’t infringe on others copyrights. I license them for my use and I license my intellectual property to others.

              I vote yes!

              • @Victor John Penner,

                WHO investigates? WHO decides?

                The AG asks a restraining order be placed. The rules for this are that it MIGHT violate law – not that it does. That it MIGHT. Lots of things can be spun that it MIGHT.

                Let me ask you this, oh angel of the internet –

                Has a logo or other well known icon (be it graphical or architectural) ever appeared in the background of your images? Can you imagine a situation where it might?

                  • @Victor John Penner,

                    It’s frightening that you automatically seem to unquestioningly agree with every whim of the attorney general’s office.

                    If anyone else reading this thread is curious about what and how a Temporary Restraining Order is issued, wikipedia has a summary:

                    • @craig,

                      Name me a whim that I agree with. It’s frightening to me that you are so paranoid, that defending copyright is the equivalent of human rights abuse.

                      Before you run off to wikipedia you should get some commonsense, a restraining order is not always issued, “ex parte”.

  7. I think that this law would hurt a lot of people. There are a lot of innocent people being sued because a web designer put an image up that supposedly belonged to someone else. As a business owner especially in these hard time we have to trust people that are suppose to be professional in what they do. As also being human we all make mistakes and the ones that get hurt are the poor ones trying to make a living. I do think that when there is a copy right issue . They should take it off where it is. And it should end there.

    • @Mark, Quote from above – “The bill will not target minor violations of copyright. It will target “internet sites dedicated to infringing activities” that are “primarily designed” to offer or provide access to copyrighted material “without the authorization of the copyright owner.””

      That and a good enough indemnification clause in the contracts, and small business owners can avoid problems. Also, it does not seem to me that action would be automatic; first there would likely be a contact with the infringer to remove the content, and then action would only happen upon failure to adhere to that request. Seems fairly simple.

  8. Gordon

    I have read about these management companies sending out 1000s of letters to people threatening lawsuit. I have read that one stock photo copy right is from 1000 to 10,000 dollars depending on what the management company feels they want. One person was being sued for 36000 dollars for 3 or 4 photos and another 75000 for multiple. What bothers me is that the web designers are not being sued yet they put it up on the web. It is the poor small business owner that gets the letter because he is the one that suppossably has money and is in the dark. . I think that a small violation is not 8 or 9 thousand dollars. I want some one to oversee all this. In some cases the lawyers are the ones that are making all the money not the person who owns the item. I think the web is a place for people looking for some one to sue. And its to the point that it is hard to trust anyone. It is hard enough trying to stay in business and to worry about people that are suppose to be professionls doing a job for you. I am going to only do word of mouth advertizing . I have friends that own rights to photos and they will only ask the person who copyed it to take it down. I can understand if you take an image and copy it and sell that image . That is wrong but where do you draw the line.

    • @Mark, One part of indemnification in many contracts does address the issue of a sub-contractor acting improperly. In such a case, the subcontractor could be dragged into court with the company.

      I have never heard of a successful defense of someone not knowing they were infringing. While it is possible to not know, as in your example, that a designer improperly acquired an image, the current laws do not provide that the end user (business owner) is not liable on basis of lack of knowledge of the activities of the designer. However, even with an indemnification clause, it is almost always likely that the business owner would still be sued. One possible remedy would be for the business owner to initiate another lawsuit against the designer. Obviously all this can grow to a huge legal mess, and like you said the lawyers are the ones who make out in that (basically agreeing with you).

      The current system is a mess in which the attorneys benefit and everyone else involved rarely like the outcome. I disagree with the suggested position of some that we should simply throw out the current system. Part of the problem is that litigation is expensive, and for creative professionals we run the risk of becoming black-listed and losing our careers. Another issue is that the time required to pursue legal remedy is so slow that the infringer usually stands to benefit, which I feel makes it too easy for the infringer.

      Going back to something I wrote earlier, what we really need is infringement insurance. When the amounts are too small to attract an attorney, or to get any legal authorities to take action, then insurance could be the buffer. If the insurance companies decide greater action is needed, then let them go after the infringers. It would work a little like vandalism of one’s vehicle, much like when my Ducati was damaged in a parking lot, the person who did it left a threatening note to me, and the police were unwilling to take any action; as the police officer told me then “that’s what insurance is for”.















  14. David Black

    I ynderstand bothe sides of this argument, but for all those that are not fully aware.. if you are running any version of Windows.. it makes a virtual copy of every single picture, flash video, etc that you view every time you go to any website…is that considered infringement? I am sorry to say, but for all of those that are screaming infringement, you all would be guilty of infringement for publically singing the “Star-spangled Banner”, “Happy Birthday”, or for that matter any holiday song. And to be even more to the point, the internet is just a more modern way of perserving information for public use like the cassette recorder on a boombox for recording songs off the radio, a CD/dvd/and now a Blu-Ray burner(which had to be approved by a similar government body to be approved for public use, but the reprecussions were never fully enforced). Now we come to the bigger, more modern picture, the internet, which was also made available to the world by most countries in a collective effort, is now so vast that unless some cataclysmic event occurs, will not be something that can be stopped. I am all for the “Big Brother” attitude that this country has adopted, but has our “wonderful” government done enough to warp our founding civil liberties that this country was founded on and they are willing to spend more money that this country DOES NOT HAVE for something as silly as this that cannot just up and disappear with a “wave of a magic wand.” You cannot begin to tell me that it will stop here.SHIT rolls downhill and this is just the beginning.

    • @David Black,

      I am sorry David but I can’t let you put this out there as fact.

      I am sorry to say, but for all of those that are screaming infringement, you all would be guilty of infringement for publically singing the “Star-spangled Banner”, “Happy Birthday”, or for that matter any holiday song.

      This is NOT true. This like saying you are infringing by reading a book.

      If you performed a song in front of a paying or public audience you have to pay royalties to the publishers of a song.

      A National Anthem is exactly that. A song that belongs to it’s people.

  15. Jiheishou Daigakusha

    As I understand it: Send a Cease and Desist, website owner takes down infringing content, problem solved. If the owner DOESN’T take it down, take them to court and get the site shut down. Under the DMCA at least. So why the need for COICA?

  16. Just saw this on Gizmodo about Cooks Source magazine. The editor and publisher openly “lifted” content from all over the internet to publish their magazine. The backlash of that is also incredible:

    Check out the comments near the bottom. I took a short venture to the Cooks Source Facebook page, and the roar is visible. Perhaps this would be one method of combating infringement. Wild stuff.

  17. What about the biggest blogs like TechCrunch openly and daily stealing photos “found on the net” since 6 straight years ?

    As far as i know nobody ever sued them and they’ve been recently bought by AOL for 25 million bucks.

    On top of this a couple years ago they even dare to complain loudly that AP wrote them to stop copying their articles claiming that TechCrunch was doing AP a “favor” and bringing more exposure (!).

    With these premises who should be surprised if piracy is unstoppable ?

    And then what about other big blogs like BoingBoing, Gawker, Gizmodo, etc ?
    These guys run companies worth millions but don’t even feel the need to pay for the cheapest 1$ microstock web sized image.

    The fact is .. piracy is actually LEGAL.