Changes to Stop Online Piracy Act a Step Forward Towards Targeting Criminals and Preserving Jobs

by Michael O'Leary 12/12/2011 15:35 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

We applaud Chairman Lamar Smith and the House Judiciary Committee on working with all interested parties to craft measured legislation that targets criminal websites.  This shows that there is broad agreement that doing nothing is not an option.  

We need to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) as soon as possible to preserve American jobs and help grow our economy.  Every day that we don’t act, criminal websites and companies profiting from these websites continue to reap financial gain at the expense of American jobs and Americans’ hard work, investment and ingenuity.

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright, Policy

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Copyright Protection is Pro-Internet; Choose Targeting Criminals and Preserving Jobs

by Paul Hortenstine 12/12/2011 07:41 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

As the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives considers the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) this week, there is a clear choice between targeting criminals or allowing them to reap profits at the expense of the American economy while preying on consumers through rogue websites.

Content producers want and need the Internet to flourish.  Protecting copyrighted works is pro-Internet and pro-free speech.  Copyright protection laws have allowed the Internet to grow and flourish.  Going after rogue websites that profit from stolen American content and counterfeit goods will make the Internet safer for consumers and preserve American jobs. 

What consumers look for is high quality entertainment that is produced by the content industry.  Content producers and technology companies thrive and grow together when products like movies and television shows are distributed legally via the Internet.  

Many opponents of the legislation have presented a false choice between copyright protection and free speech; content versus technology; Hollywood v. Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, these attacks are a distraction from the real harm caused by rogue websites that are violating current copyright law. 

Stealing is not free speech and is harmful to the Internet.   The Stop Online Piracy Act, like our copyright laws, promotes free speech and rewards creativity.   Every day that Congress does not act rogue websites and companies profiting from these websites continue to reap financial gain at the expense of Americans’ jobs and safety. 

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright

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Draft Legislation by Rep. Issa and Senator Wyden Goes Easy On Internet Piracy

by Michael O'Leary 12/08/2011 09:25 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The good news is that Congressman Darrell Issa and Senator Ron Wyden recognize that doing nothing to stop foreign criminals who profit from stolen creative content and counterfeit goods on their websites is not an option.  American jobs are being placed at risk and consumers can face serious dangers from counterfeit drugs and other products, so it is critical that action be taken by Congress.

The bad news is that this draft legislation fails to provide an effective way to target foreign rogue websites and 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.

We need action now to preserve American jobs and help grow our economy.  Every day that we don’t act foreign rogue websites and companies profiting from these websites continue to reap financial gain at the expense of American jobs and Americans’ hard work, investment and ingenuity.  Hopefully, this draft legislation is not just a delaying tactic to prevent Congress from acting quickly on this serious problem.

The PROTECT IP Act, sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch and 38 others, and the Stop Online Piracy Act, sponsored by Representatives Lamar Smith, John Conyers and 28 others offer measured, needed solutions to target online theft and counterfeiting by rogue websites.  Few bills have this type of bipartisan support and the backing of businesses and labor groups.  The draft legislation introduced by Congressman Issa and Senator Wyden goes far easier on the criminal enterprises operting these rogue websites than these two bills.

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright

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Study Shows Claims about Rogue Sites Legislation “Breaking the Internet” are “Completely Unfounded and Without Merit”

by Paul Hortenstine 12/05/2011 12:31 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Yesterday, Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) addressed criticism of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act in a lengthy and well documented study.   Many opponents of the legislation have claimed that it would “break the Internet.”   Castro writes that this criticism is “completely unfounded and without merit.”

The PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House target websites that sell counterfeit goods and profit from trafficking in stolen content like movies and music.   The bills have bipartisan support and are backed by both business and labor and a wide range of law enforcement groups.   It’s rare for legislation in Congress to have that kind of support.

Castro states:

“Many inaccurate claims have been made about PIPA/SOPA by opponents of the legislation. The most serious of these claims to date is that the proposed countermeasures in PIPA/SOPA, particularly the DNS filtering obligation, would ‘break the Internet’ or otherwise harm users. This claim, which has been used by critics to rally the public, media and lawmakers to their cause, is completely unfounded and without merit.”

Castro also addresses claims about censorship:

“Some critics of PIPA/SOPA argue that the legislation will restrict lawful free speech and is a form of censorship. Ideological critics have called the PIPA/SOPA the ‘first American Internet censorship system.’  The Internet Society argues that DNS filtering ‘has the potential to restrict free and open communications and could be used in ways that limit the rights of individuals or minority groups.’   Of course it could. ISPs or the U.S. government could use DNS filtering to block sites they do not like. But guns can be used by criminals to kill people too and that does not mean that we do not let the police or security guards have guns. It is not the tool of DNS blocking that is at issue, but the legal regime in which the tool is allowed to be used. Some of these opponents of PIPA/SOPA are more interested in protecting access to free illegal content than they are in protecting free speech. Yet aside from these bold claims, critics have done little to show how enforcing IP rights violates any American’s First Amendment rights.

“Critics of PIPA/SOPA are trying to suggest that if a user is prevented from obtaining a pirated copy of the latest Hollywood film, this is an unlawful restriction of their Constitutional rights. Human rights, including the freedom of speech, are a fundamental part of our democracy and deserve the utmost respect. But this legislation makes no attempt to regulate speech on the Internet. An individual’s right to free speech is not a license to infringe on the IP rights of others. The freedom of speech does not give Internet users the right to steal digital content.”

Critics of rogue websites legislation have been wrong about content protection laws before and they’re wrong again now.   If rogue websites legislation passes, American jobs will be preserved and the Internet will continue to be free and open.  Content protection laws have given us the Internet of today, alive with innovation, free speech and commerce.

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright

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Attorney General Holder Announces Public Awareness Campaign on IP Theft & Counterfeiting as Danger to Consumers and Economy

by Paul Hortenstine 11/29/2011 12:04 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

At a White House event today, Attorney General Eric Holder joined with Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, White House IP Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, ICE Director John Morton and National Crime Prevention Council CEO Ann Harkins to announce a public awareness campaign about the dangers intellectual property theft and counterfeit goods pose to public safety and the economy.  

The National Crime Prevention Council is well known for its crime prevention campaigns featuring McGruff the Crime Dog. 

As the New York Times reported, in the new campaign, “McGruff, the dog that has been trying for decades to help humans ‘take a bite out of crime,’ is setting his sight on a new target: counterfeit goods.” And, “In one ad, McGruff — familiar from pro bono campaigns from the Advertising Council, on behalf of the National Crime Prevention Council — tells consumers that ‘counterfeit drugs can put your life at risk.’” The campaign includes advertising on the Internet, television, radio and in print.

Attorney General Holder left no doubt about how important combating IP theft and counterfeit goods is.  He said,

"As our country continues to recover from once-in-a-generation economic challenges, the need to safeguard intellectual property rights – and to protect Americans from intellectual property crimes – has never been more urgent.”

The Hill’s Hillicon Valley blog also reported:

“‘Make no mistake: [intellectual property] crimes are anything but victimless,’ Holder said. ‘For far too long, the sale of counterfeit, defective, and dangerous goods has been perceived as 'business as usual.'  But these and other IP crimes can destroy jobs, suppress innovation, and jeopardize the health and safety of consumers. In some cases, these activities are used to fund dangerous – and even violent – criminal enterprises and organized crime networks. And they present a significant – and growing – threat to our nation’s economic and national security.’”

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright

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Targeting Internet Piracy Will Preserve American Jobs, Encourage Innovation and Uphold Free Speech

by Michael O'Leary 11/28/2011 14:46 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Online piracy is a major threat to our economy, consumer safety, and our national security.  Currently, many foreign websites that profit from counterfeit goods and stolen content are beyond the reach of U.S. law.  So, how do we target these dangerous foreign websites while upholding free speech, promoting innovation, encouraging commerce and preserving American jobs? 

The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R.3261) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate provide measured, needed tools to go after these websites that are beyond the reach of our current laws and preserve millions of American jobs.  Everyone engaged in legal commerce on the Internet should welcome new tools to go after websites that illegally profit from American innovation and creativity.  While we can never stop online piracy, this legislation is a step in the right direction. 

Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial on this legislation.   It rightly stated that piracy is “the bane of the Internet.”  However, it failed to mention the importance of copyright laws in creating the Internet of today and the jobs that are at stake if we don’t target online piracy.  Unfortunately, it also misrepresented many important parts of the Stop Online Piracy Act. 

Copyright protection laws have helped create the Internet of today, alive with free speech, innovation and commerce.  Foreign rogue websites that profit from stolen content and counterfeit goods are a danger to consumers and a drag on our economy.  Copyright laws in the U.S. uphold free speech while encouraging innovation by giving an economic incentive for artists and investors to create new content and distribute it on the Internet.   

The editorial rightly stated that piracy saps our economy but failed to give the full picture of the millions of American jobs at stake.  The editorial said, “Piracy’s cost is measured in less innovation and less economic activity, as creators lose hope of making a living from their creations.”  The creators of new content are not the only ones who depend on copyrighted material for their livelihoods. More than 10.6 million Americans depend on the copyright industries for their jobs.  That’s about 1 in 10 private sector jobs in the U.S.  And about 2.2 million Americans depend on the film and television industries for their jobs.  Many of these Americans work behind the scenes in good paying middle class jobs.  

The protection of free speech on the Internet by U.S. law and the signal it sends to other countries, especially China, is very important.  The New York Times editorial stated that we should think about the signal we send to China.  There is no doubt about this.  Our copyright laws already send a strong signal to China and the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act uphold the tradition of protecting intellectual property while promoting free speech.  

Celebrated First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams has written that the Stop Online Piracy Act upholds free speech.  In a recent letter, he wrote, “The notion that adopting legislation to combat the theft of intellectual property on the Internet threatens freedom of expression” is “insupportable.”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also written that “The State Department is strongly committed to advancing both Internet freedom and the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights on the Internet.  Indeed, these two priorities are consistent.” 

Preserving safe harbors for websites that remove copyrighted material is important to enable innovation and commerce.   The editorial raised concerns that the legislation will undermine the safe harbors for domestic websites under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  This missed a key distinction: Those safe harbor protections protect legitimate websites, not websites that are dedicated to theft and have no intention of complying with U.S. law.  The Stop Online Piracy Act upholds and has no impact on these safe harbors because it is directed at websites that are dedicated to the theft of copyrighted works and the sale of counterfeit goods – sites that are ineligible for the DMCA’s safe harbors to begin with.  Websites that are engaged in legal commerce will continue to have safe harbor protections.  Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act should be careful about this distinction or it would appear that they are arguing that blatantly infringing websites that have no intention of complying with U.S. law should enjoy safe harbor protections.

The Stop Online Piracy Act follows established due process standards and targets websites that are dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy.   The site blocking techniques provided for in the Stop Online Piracy Act are not new.  They are currently used to combat all kinds of harmful behavior including spam, phishing, malware, viruses, and other forms of Internet crime, all without claims of Internet censorship or harm to the Internet.  In fact, some of the same experts cited by the New York Times developed these techniques for use in fighting those kinds of Internet wrongs.  They apparently believe copyright infringement is not a problem that merits the same kind of enforcement efforts.   

Combating piracy is important for the future of free speech, innovation, and commerce on the Internet.  We should work together to create legislation that targets piracy that is currently out of the reach of our laws.  Congress and the courts have crafted reasonable, measured techniques to protect copyrights while preserving free speech.  The Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act continue in this tradition and help ensure that the Internet will continue to be free and open while preserving millions of American jobs.

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New York Times Book Review of "Free Ride"

by Paul Hortenstine 11/28/2011 11:14 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

In the Sunday New York Times Book Review, Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University, reviewed “Free Ride” by Robert Levine.   Levine’s book illustrates the importance of copyright laws in promoting innovation and commerce on the Internet.   Rosen believes that it is an important book that “...should change the debate about the future of culture...”

Levine’s book explores how many parts of the culture industry have been economically devastated because they have invested creativity and capital in content that consumers want but often see their products being distributed for free on the Internet.  Levine writes, “The real conflict online is between the media companies that fund much of the entertainment we read, see and hear and the technology firms that want to distribute their content — legally or otherwise.”

Rosen shows how the current economic system of the Internet is broken:  “But the biggest problem with copyright today, he [Levine] says, is that its protections have become illusory in an age when movies and music, produced by independent artists and big studios alike, are available on pirate sites even before they’re released.”

One part of the culture industry that has undergone major economic upheaval due to the Internet is printed news.  Some of America’s most trusted newspapers laid off reporters who produced important original and investigative reporting.  However, currently some of the newspapers have started charging for access to their websites.   Rosen writes,

“The most successful culture businesses, Levine says, have resisted nostrums about how information yearns to be free and instead have insisted on the old-fashioned strategy of selling something for more than they paid for it. He notes that The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and The New York Times charge for content, and that some have found that the increased revenue of full-price subscribers more than offsets the decline in digital readership.”

In conclusion, Rosen believes that Levine has made a convincing argument about the problems content creators face on the Internet.  He states, “…regardless of your position in the business-of-culture wars, it’s hard to resist Levine’s conclusion that he status quo is much better for tech companies and distributors than for cultural creators and producers.  That status quo may benefit consumers in the short term.  But if it continues, Levine argues, the Internet will increasingly become an artistic wasteland dominated by amateurs – a world where music, TV and journalism are virtually free, and where all of us get what we pay for.”

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright

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Columbia Law Professor: SOPA Not Censorship

by TJ Ducklo 11/24/2011 11:03 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Since its introduction a few weeks ago, SOPA opponents have flooded the blogosphere with mischaracterized and often incorrect depictions of what the bill will actually do if passed. The most common piece of misguided rhetoric and the rallying cry for many opponents is the culturally resonant label: censorship. But as New York Lawyer and Columbia University Law Professor Hillel I. Parness points out yesterday, the Stop Online Piracy Act does not provide the government the pretense or the tools to “censor” any website based on a content evaluation alone, as reported by ReadWrite Enterprise.

Parness describes SOPA as “clarifying the Copyright Act” and says the nature of the bill is nothing different than other pieces of legislation that have regulated internet usage in the past:

“I don't view the approach here as anything that is groundbreaking in the macro sense. We have seen statutes, we have gotten used to statutes addressing the Internet, and the uniqueness of the Internet, that allow for various remedies, such as notice and takedown under the DMCA, which was new when it was implemented.”

He continued, “Therefore, if there was a risk of abuse, that risk has always been there. And I have confidence in the structure of our court system, that the prosecutors and the courts are held to certain standards that should not allow a statute such as this to be manipulated in that way."

Parness also explains that any site targeted by the bill must meet existing U.S. classifications for criminal conduct. The key word there is criminal. Legislation that targets rogue websites, such as SOPA or its Senate companion the PROTECT IP Act, is intended to halt illegal behavior that takes money out of the pockets of Americans. The film and television industry supports 2.2 million jobs across the country and Chairman Smith with his 24 co-sponsors in the House, as well as Chairman Leahy and his 39 co-sponsors in the Senate aim to protect those jobs.

But these bills do not just protect job in television and film. They also protect consumers against counterfeit drugs sold on foreign rogue sites, a problem outlined by Pzifer Executive John Clark at the recent House Judiciary Hearing, and protect all Americans from phony equipment used by first responders, which is why the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Fire Fighters have both endorsed the legislation.

Foreign-based rogue websites are a problem that isn’t going away, and on this Thanksgiving as we all reflect on what we have to be thankful for, we should give thanks we live in a country that protects us against real censorship and that won’t stand for online criminals using the internet to facilitate their crime.

 


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