Court to Hear Government 'Web Blocking' Case

Dental decision has online access implications
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit is scheduled to hear oral argument Tuesday (Aug. 11) on a case that net neutrality activists says is about government asserting its ability to block Internet transmissions.

A different Washington appeals court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is scheduled to hear oral argument Dec. 4 in the challenge of ISP's to rules the government imposed to prevent them from blocking or throttling. But the Federal Circuit, which specializes in intellectual property protection and related subject matter cases, could get to sink its teeth into the issue as well via Tuesday's argument, though the subject matter more closely resembles the debate over the government's role in preventing online piracy.

A spokesperson for Public Knowledge, which opposed the ITC decision, said the case "involves an effort to use a trade agency to implement the same troubling website-blocking tactics as SOPA and PIPA offered under the guise of trade regulation..."

The case involves a challenge to an International Trade Commission decision last fall concluding that the ITC's authority to prevent the importation of infringing products extended to digital models, data and treatment plans for dental appliances.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which supported SOPA/PIPA and opposed the appeal of the ITC, decision, said back in April: "Congress has given the ITC broad authority to protect U.S. industries from unfair acts in importation – including online copyright infringement - with a jurisdiction that encompasses electronic transmissions. Undercutting the ITC’s jurisdiction in this area will hurt the rapid growth of domestic and international marketplaces for distributing content digitally, and ultimately undermine the Commission’s mandate to protect American businesses.”

Public Knowledge has said it is concerned that the Motion Picture Association of America will leverage the decision to force websites to block content, an approach to online piracy prevention Public Knowledge argued was rejected in the SOPA/PIPA debate outcome.

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