Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) unveiled a rival anti-piracy bill on Thursday that tries to combat copyright infringement using trade laws, but Hollywood studios and other content owners say that the legislation would be insufficient to combat so-called rogue websites.
The Wyden-Issa bill, called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, would expand the authority of the International Trade Commission, which enforces copyright and trademark infringement as it applies to physical goods.
Copyright holders could petition the ITC to investigate cases of illegal digital imports, and supporters say that tit would take only a “matter of days” to investigate the “worst of the worst” foreign rogue sites. If the investigation finds that a foreign-registered site is “primarily” and “willfully” infringing on copyright, the commission could issue a cease and desist order to compel payment processors and ad networks to cut off support.
“Building on the International Trade Commission’s existing IP expertise adn authority makes it possible to go after legitimate cases of IP abuse without doing irreparable harm to the Internet,” Wyden said in a statement.
The legislation contrasts to the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate, which allow federal officials to obtain court orders to force payment processors and ad networks to cut off support, but also has measures to force search engines and Internet providers to block links or preventing sites from resolving to a domain name.
Michael O’Leary, senior exec VP for global policy and external affairs at the MPAA, said that Wyden-Issa proposal “goes easy” on online piracy and counterfeiting. “By changing the venue from our federal courts to the U.S. International Trade Commission, it places copyright holders at a disadvantage and allows companies profiting from online piracy to advocate for foreign rogue websites against rightful American copyright holders. It even allows notification to some of these companies if they want to help advocate for rogue websites.”
He also raised the prospect that the legislation is merely a delaying tactic — as it will almost certainly require new congressional hearings — to prevent congressional action on the other legislation.
Update: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which will vote on the entertainment industry-backed bills next week, directly attacked Google in his response to the legislative proposal. “Google recently paid a half billion dollars to settle a criminal case becasue the search engine giant’s active promotion of rogue pharmacies that sold counterfeit and illegal drugs to U.S. patients. As a result of their actions, the health and lives of many American patients may have been endangered. Their opposition to this legislation is self-serving since they profit from doing business with rogue sites.”
Wyden and Issa have launched a website to take comments on their proposal, www.keepthewebopen.com.
And critics of SOPA and PROTECT IP gained what they said was new ammunition in making their case that the government already is overreaching in its efforts to crack down on websites it deems as trafficking in infringing goods. According to CNET, the federal government has abandoned its lawsuit against DaJaz1.com, seized last year by the Department of Homeland Security. But the site argued that the music it had on the site was obtained legally. The site’s homepage is back up, and now almost entirely devoted to campaigning against SOPA and PROTECT IP as Internet censorship.