Senate Committee Passes PROTECT IP Act But Wyden Issues Quick Halt

Congress, Copyright, Intellectual Property, Senate May 27th, 2011

, Deputy Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON May 27, 2011 – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP Act on Thursday, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) put a hold on the bill preventing it from going to the full Senate.

“Increased online theft of intellectual property has become a rampant problem,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). “The impact of copyright piracy and sale of counterfeit goods imposes a huge cost on the American economy – lost jobs, lost sales, and lost income. This bill will help to protect against harmful counterfeit and pirated products that cause damage to both the economy and the health and safety of the consumer.”

The PROTECT IP Act bears a striking similarity to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced last year. COICO would have allowed the Attorney General to bring legal action and create a blacklist of rogue websites.

The PROTECT IP Act includes a provision that would provide a narrow definition of what infringing activities that the Justice Department would use to identify rogue sites. It would also give the Attorney General authority to bring action – including seeking financial restitution – against those sites. Rights holders would be eligible to sue rogue websites for copyright infringements.

The act would also protect domain registrars, payment processors, and advertising networks from prosecution for providing services to the rogue websites until a cease and desist order was issued by the courts.

A broad coalition of 170 trade groups and businesses such as Nike, Ford, Estee Lauder, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the National Basketball Association sent a letter of support to the committee.

“Many of these sites pose as legitimate businesses, luring consumers with sophisticated and well-designed websites. But, in reality, the counterfeit and pirated products these sites distribute are often of poor quality, harmful, and promote fraud. The PROTECT IP Act is a major step to make the Internet safer and protect consumers from the dangers of rogue sites in the online marketplace,” the letter read in part.

Public interest group Public Knowledge opposed the bill calling it “over reaching.”

“The bill as written can still allow actions against sites that aren’t infringing on copyright if the site is seen to ‘enable or facilitate’ infringement — a definition that is far too broad,” said Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director.

Several large corporations such as Google, Yahoo!, Ebay, American Express and Paypal have all opposed the bill. At an earlier hearing on the act, Google opposed the act saying that it will have very negative ramifications.

“Defining what is a rogue site is not a simple task. Technology advances often lead to evolving areas of copyright law, as courts sort out the application of common law doctrines to new technologies.  An overbroad definition of a rogue site could easily ensnare millions of popular U.S. websites that allow users to sell goods or upload content,” said Kent Walker, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Google.

Hours after the bill passed the committee Wyden put a hold on the bill, just as he did on COICA last year.

“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,” Wyden said in a statement. “At the expense of legitimate commerce, [the PROTECT IP Act]’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.”

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10 Responses to “Senate Committee Passes PROTECT IP Act But Wyden Issues Quick Halt”

  1. mike Says:

    Thank you Sen Wyden

  2. Brian Says:

    I wish I got paid for doing what others told/demanded I do, like our politicians. Its unfortunate to say, but my own government makes me sick.

  3. Alex Says:

    Bill is wrong. Way to take away freedom. Any politician who voted for it should be investigated for ties to movie and/or music industry. The real irony is that it has been proven that downloading music doesn’t necessarily adversely impact sales. It just changes the business model.

  4. bakagami Says:

    How much do you want to bet that Wikileaks is the first site to get blocked? after all that’s the kind of thing this bill is really all about. it wont work to stop piracy that’s for sure

  5. Karen Says:

    This bill simply enables censorship without providing any effective way to “protect” intellectual property. I know because I work with internet security. This is how file sharers operate:

    They sniff out code vulnerabilities where they can gain control of a website (or entire server). Then they implant their wares (warez) on the hijacked site. When the site is cleaned, they’ve already moved on to new sites. All they need is a script and internet access — and that access can change every time they run their scripts. Nothing in this bill will help prevent this.

    However, we already HAVE preventatives – or at least early warning systems. If you browse with firefox or google chrome, it will (at your request) block any site which google’s crawlers have discovered contains malicious software. Google Webmaster tools will send email to any webmaster who has registered his or her site when the crawler discovers malicious or hacked files.

    So the people sponsoring this bill are either really, really ignorant (I see Grassley’s name) or this is a trojan horse ushering in government censorship of the internet as they have in China and Cuba.

    Please write your Senator and urge him or her to support Senator Ron Wyden as he puts a hold on this noxious censorship bill.

  6. Sir Vantes Says:

    Any time government seeks to step in where the courts can act, such as prosecuting piracy with existing laws, there is going to be a problem.

    We have laws in place and international agreements to stop sites that promote piracy, now. We don’t need the DOJ shutting sites down without warrants. The power to accomplish that exist now, the companies seeking shutdown merely have to petition a court and get the legal authority to do so, something that can take less than a week.

    This is a clear case of corporations over-reaching when they have insufficient legal authority to do so. Shutting down a Spanish website that re-transmitted ESPN broadcasts over copyright? If ESPN had a real case, the Spanish goverment would have closed the site in a minute, but ESPN had to get DOJ involved because they don’t have the case to do so.

    Every time government starts taking the side of corporations, watch out because you are not going to be the one that comes out ahead.

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