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Senate Committee Passes PROTECT IP Act But Wyden Issues Quick Halt

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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.”

Google, Microsoft, Obama Admin team Up To Fight Drug Counterfeiters Online

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The Obama administration, alongside a group of 11 key technology companies on Tuesday unveiled a new non-profit group aimed at cracking down on online “pharmacies” that sell fake drugs.

“Trafficking in counterfeits is not victimless,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House Intellectual Property Summit on Tuesday. “The Justice department is committed to making sure that it is not seen as a safe business strategy.”

The companies that are involved in the initiative include: American Express, eNom Inc, GoDaddy, Mastercard, Microsoft; Neustar, Inc., Paypal Yahoo! Inc., and Visa.

Counterfeit drug sales account for about $75 billion in global sales, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Widespread Telecommuting Could Save Consumers $228 Billion, Businesses $260 Billion

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WASHINGTON, March 13, 2009 – Working from home could save United States consumers $228 billion, add $260 billion to companies’ bottom line, and save the government another $14 billion, according to a study released Tuesday by Undress4success.com.

“Using the recently-released U.S. Census American Community Survey figures, and data from over a dozen authoritative studies, the calculator quantifies what every city, county, region, Congressional District, and State in the nation could save through telecommuting / work-from-home initiatives,” according to a press release from the California-based group.

It was referring to a web-based calculator that allows individuals and organizations to model cost-savings obtainable from telecommuting. The calculator is available
at http://undress4success.com/research/telework-savings-calculator.

According to the research, “currently less than six million Americans consider home their regular workplace—more than half of them are self-employed. Undress4Success.com’s research show that another 33 million people hold jobs that are telework-compatible and eager to work from home.”

“If they did so just half of the time (roughly the national average for those who already do), businesses could improve their bottom line by over $7,900 per new telecommuter per year—the result of lower real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover costs together with increased employee productivity,” adds the statement.

Teleworking is estimated to have saved Sun Microsystems $70 million a year in real estate alone; McKesson $2 million a year in real estate and other expenses; Dow Chemical a third of its non-real estate costs through telework while Best Buy, British Telecom, J.D. Edwards, and American Express “show home-based employees to be 20-40% more productive than their office counterparts.”

The calculator results, the statement added, are based on new research conducted by telecommuting advocates Kate Lister and Tom Harnish, authors of the newly published Undress For Success—The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home (Wiley, March 2009).

The Undress4Success.com web site offers individuals, companies, and researchers a wide range of resources on telecommuting, freelancing, and home-based businesses.

According to author and web site owner Lister, “widespread adoption of virtual technologies, in particular teleconferencing and video conferencing, will reduce the need for business travel” and take the equivalent of 15 million cars off the road.

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