Thank you for contacting me regarding intellectual property theft. I appreciate hearing from you and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.
S.968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011, was introduced by Senator Leahy (D-VT) on May 12, 2011, and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. On May 26, 2011, it was reported out of Committee and is currently pending in the Senate. The bill targets websites, particularly those registered outside of the United States, which are “dedicated to infringing activities.” These rogue websites typically offer unauthorized downloading or streaming of copyrighted content or the sale of counterfeit goods including music, movies, and pharmaceutical drugs.
Websites targeted by this bill are foreign owned and outside the reach of U.S. laws despite the fact U.S. intellectual property is being infringed upon and U.S. consumers are the targets. Rogue websites cost American workers jobs and cost businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue. As online technology and commerce advances, we must see to it that injured parties have the ability to stop infringers from profiting from counterfeit products. For example, a victim of infringement will have the authority to file a civil action against the owner or registrant of a rogue site. If an order is granted by the court, third parties will be required to stop processing payments from the infringing sites, therefore, preventing infringers from collecting payments. I will work to ensure that our laws our modernized to protect intellectual property, and will keep your thoughts on this bill in mind should it come before the Senate for a vote.
Thank you again for contacting me. Please visit my webpage at http://isakson.senate.gov/for more information on the issues important to you and to sign up for my e-newsletter.
United States Senator
I appreciate getting an honest reply from a senator’s office, complete with an explanation of the goal of the legislation. It is important to see how this sort of bill is presented to members of Congress in order to understand why bills like this continue to live while others think it is common sense to destroy the legislation immediately (or wonder why some ideas were proposed in the first place.)
The Internet is an international treaty. Although the computers that make up the Internet are under the jurisdiction of many different countries, and particular parts of its network are governed by these countries’ laws, the Internet in its entirety belongs to the whole world and is without precedent.
Only a body with worldwide scope should have the jurisdiction to decide what can or cannot be accessed on the Internet.
Although other countries have chosen to filter, adjust, or limit access to information that can be retrieved on the Internet, it is not the purpose of the network and is counterproductive. The protocols of the Internet are open and free for all to study and learn, so all attempts to block or divert traffic are known, and can be circumvented by any user (even if it is not legal to do so.)
It is my understanding that the domain registration provisions are being reconsidered. This is wise because any person can create a domain name service, publicly or privately, making this aspect of the bill impossible to enforce.
Are the punishments for failing to obey a court order based on PROTECT IP the same as existing punishments in copyright law? It is not clear how a search engine could be punished for failing to remove an ad or link (are they found in contempt of court?) nor is it clear why existing laws against the sale of counterfeit physical goods do not suffice. Legislation against the digital transfer of data will always be toothless as stated above; any preventive measure can be circumvented by any person, even if that circumvention is outlawed.