01/17/2012 13:37 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.
It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.
A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.
01/14/2012 11:58 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
We welcome the Administration's clear statement that legislation is needed to stop foreign based thieves from stealing the hard work and creativity of millions of American workers. For too long in this debate, those that seek to preserve and profit from the status quo have moved to obstruct reasonable legislation. While many of the elements mentioned in the White House statement are critically important, we believe, as do others in our coalition, that protecting American jobs is important too, particularly in these difficult economic times for our nation. We are pleased that Chairman Leahy and Chairman Smith reiterated yesterday that they too support action. So now it is time to stop the obstruction and move forward on legislation.
Our industry not only fully supports free expression, our livelihood is built upon a vibrant First Amendment - it is the foundation of our industry and we would never support any legislation that would limit this fundamental American right. As had been made clear throughout the legislative consideration of SOPA and the PROTECT-IP Act, neither of these bills implicate free expression but focus solely on illegal conduct, which is not free speech. We agree with Secretary Clinton's recent statement that "There is no contradiction between intellectual property rights protection and enforcement and ensuring freedom of expression on the Internet."
We also share the Administration's desire to encourage innovation. The American businesses that are victimized on a daily basis by global Internet thieves are among the most innovative industries in this nation and we welcome the Administration's support of these American businesses. Every day, American jobs are threatened by thieves from foreign-based rogue websites. This deplorable situation persists because U.S. law enforcement does not have the tools to fight back.
While we agree with the White House that protection against online piracy is vital, that protection must be meaningful to protect the people who have been and will continue to be victimized if legislation is not enacted. Meaningful legislation must include measured and reasonable remedies that include ad brokers, payment processors and search engines. They must be part of a solution that stops theft and protects American consumers.
We applaud the continued leadership in the House and Senate for working to enact common-sense legislation to stop foreign websites from stealing American creativity and jobs. Misinformation simply can't be allowed to replace honest debate, and derail the critically important fight to protect American jobs. We hope the Administration’s role in this debate now will help steer the attention now to what can be accomplished and passed into law to protect American jobs.
On behalf of the 2.2 million Americans whose jobs depend on the film and television industries, we look forward to the Administration playing a constructive role in this process and working with us to pass legislation that will offer real protection for American jobs. The failure to pass meaningful legislation will result in overseas websites continuing to be a safe haven for criminals stealing and profiting from America.
01/12/2012 13:53 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Those who still think the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act aren’t about jobs for hard-working Americans need to read the editorial by Danny L. Thompson, the Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, in today’s Las Vegas Sun.
- Thompson writes: “When foreign websites illegally sell counterfeited intellectual property, they are taking jobs, income and benefits from American workers…The motion picture industry alone employs nearly 7,900 people in Nevada — not just actors, but stage employees, technicians, musicians, writers and many other middle-class workers. And the revenues generated from the film industry’s production in Nevada total more than $90 million each year and $1.2 billion since 2000. Online piracy put this all at risk.”
As Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, Thompson is right to sound the warning that “copyright infringement also extends far beyond film and music.” Thompson is correct in his understanding that SOPA and PROTECT-IP are not solely about movie industry jobs.
- He writes: “Nevada businesses developing software and creative manufacturing technologies are also supporting SOPA and PROTECT-IP to protect their innovations from being stolen and distributed on the Internet. The engineering firm Bechtel Nevada, one of Southern Nevada’s largest nongaming employers with 3,000 employees, and Reno-based gaming developer International Game Technology, employing 2,500 in Reno and 600 in Las Vegas, both support these solutions to protect their intellectual property and the vitality of their businesses.”
Organized labor has been a strong supporter of both SOPA and PROTECT-IP. Organizations like the AFL-CIO understand that our current economic climate demands the preservation of jobs for American workers.
01/11/2012 11:19 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
While the Attorney General of Utah Mark Shurtleff came out strongly against rogue websites and in support of SOPA and PIPA, he is not the only distinguished member of the law enforcement community to support these bills. The fact is law enforcement organizations, which are on the front lines managing the increasing dangers of foreign owned or operated websites, strongly support both bills.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the launch of a public education campaign to increase Americans’ knowledge of the threat IP crimes pose to America’s economic prosperity and public safety. In addition, 15 leading public safety and law enforcement groups including the National Criminal Justice Association, the National Troopers Association, and the National District Attorneys Association, urged Congress to support and enact SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act.
And since they’re those out there so caught up with the use of words, let’s take a look at some of the language law enforcement has used to shower support on PIPA and SOPA. The President of the Fraternal Order of Police said the PROTECT IP ACT “would strengthen the ability of the United States to take action against foreign ‘rogue’ websites that traffic in counterfeit and pirated products,” while the National Association of Attorneys General urged Congress to enact these bills because “legislation is needed to disrupt the counterfeiting and pirate business model by cutting those sites off from the American marketplace.” The President of the Major Cities Chiefs’ Association, which represents 63 of the largest police departments in the nation, called on ISP’s to join in the fight against rogue websites who “routinely violate the intellectual property of U.S. companies and individuals.”
Their assessment of the severity of illegal activity committed by rogue websites is reflected in the 2011 seizure statistics issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Office of International Trade, which notes that “[t]heft of intellectual property is a serious crime,” and details the type and extent of seizures of counterfeit products, including pharmaceuticals.
01/10/2012 13:28 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at CATO, recently wrote a post on Cato@Liberty, which once again offers tired arguments about why the theft of intellectual property is not such a bad thing.
In his post, Sanchez’s main argument is that theft has a negligible economic impact – only some inefficiency – because theft is beneficial: that is, the consumers who access stolen content can choose to use the money they “saved” to purchase other products. Extending this argument, shoplifting has no economic impact since shoplifters can spend the money they “saved” on other products, a perspective which runs counter to treatment of crime in other “costs of crime” studies
Or taken another way, credit card fraud against consumers has no economic impact on the general economy since the person or company committing the fraud can spend his/her profits elsewhere. To support this argument, Sanchez pointed to a flawed Government Accountability Office report, which cited anonymous “experts” who viewed counterfeiting and piracy as “mainly redistributions” of wealth and thus argued that “any positive effects of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy should be considered as well as the negative impacts.” The Progress & Freedom Foundation, already accurately deconstructed the fallacy of this “expert” assessment in: “Punk’d: GAO Celebrates the “Positive Economic Effects” of Counterfeiting and Other Criminal Racketeering.”
Sanchez also sought to challenge the use of economic multipliers to assess the effects of piracy and counterfeiting on industry suppliers and other downstream parties. To support this argument, Sanchez again chose to quote a portion of the GAO report citing anonymous “experts,” leaving out text that contradicted his assertions (the part excluded is in bold): “Most of the experts we interviewed were reluctant to use economic multipliers to calculate losses from counterfeiting because this methodology was developed to look at a one-time change in output and employment. Nonetheless, the use of this methodology corroborates that the effect of counterfeiting and piracy goes beyond the infringed industry. For example, when pirated movies are sold, it damages not only the motion picture industry, but all other industries linked to those sales.”
He neglected to point out that most of the economic cost of piracy studies estimate the one-time effects in one year, if copyright piracy was eliminated and that they do not generally include activity by people who would not have otherwise purchased legitimately. He also neglected to point out the hundreds if not thousands of economic models using multipliers in a vast number of contexts. If Sanchez is saying such models cannot be used for piracy, it’s not clear why it would then be valid to use them for measuring impacts of things like tourism, the arts, or terrorism.
In conclusion, Sanchez argued against Congressional passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act, basing his reasoning on his own faulty logic that content theft and counterfeiting don’t cause widespread economic pain. And that’s where he is wrong – even the GAO concluded that “the problem is sizeable, which is of particular concern as many U.S. industries are leaders in the creation of intellectual property.”
The bottom line: SOPA, and related bipartisan legislation in the Senate, the PROTECT-IP Act, will help American businesses and American workers by making it more difficult for operators of rogue websites, often based overseas, to steal American intellectual property. These bills are supported by hundreds of businesses, consumer advocacy groups, labor organizations and intellectual property coalitions. The time has come for Congress to protect these workers and businesses and to put tired arguments like those being made by Sanchez to rest.
01/10/2012 10:32 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
The BBC has an interesting report highlighting the fact that Google’s advertising services distribute large numbers of ads for illegal services, in this case unauthorized brokers of tickets to the 2012 Olympics in London. The BBC piece notes that Google removes the ads upon requests from police (or when they’re informed by the BBC that they’re about to be the subject of an embarrassing news report) – but also that Google keeps “keeps any money it might make from companies advertising illegal services before such adverts are removed.”
A couple points relevant to the debate over SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act:
• Advertising by purveyors of illegal products and services is a huge problem. Even without the enhanced procedures contained in SOPA and PROTECT IP, Google says that “In 2010, we took action on our own initiative against nearly 12,000 sites for violating this policy” against advertising by “infringing sites.” And in 2011, it took action on 12,000 more. While it’s nice that Google removed these ads “on [its] own initiative,” this clearly hasn’t solved the problem, and more needs to be done.
• Google readily admits that it profits from advertising of illegal services. It keeps its ill-gotten advertising gains – even after being informed by the police of their tainted source. Google could easily choose to hand over these corrupt proceeds to law enforcement, or to other worthy causes devoted to combating illegal online activities. But apparently its commercial interests trump doing the right thing. (One would have thought that having to pay a $500 million settlement for “knowingly show[ing] illegal ads for fraudulent Canadian pharmacies” would have tempered Google’s willingness to serve and profit from ads for illegal services. Apparently not.)
This is all just a reminder that many of the opponents of SOPA and PROTECT IP, while they like to portray themselves as brave Internet freedom-fighters, are in reality doing little more than protecting their own business interests. They profit from illegal activities, and they will vigorously resist legislation that seeks to put this practice to an end.
01/09/2012 13:49 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Writing in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Utah Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff effectively hammers the point that Google, Yahoo and others have spent millions trying to distort – that states which allow rogue websites to operate unfettered will experience massive revenue reduction and job loss. Calling operators of rogue websites by their real name; criminals, Shurtleff goes on to write that these criminals “unload unsafe products and malicious computer viruses, perpetrate identify theft and engage in wholesale theft of America’s most innovative products.”
Shurtleff rightly contends that America cannot afford to lose one more job, let alone the shuttering of entire industries that can occur if online piracy continues unabated.
Yet, that’s exactly what failing to pass the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate, and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House will allow. Industries that provide millions of dollars to local economies and thousands of jobs will be jeopardized. For example, in Utah the film and television industry is responsible for nearly 8,000 jobs and $385 million in wages. However, despite providing a tremendous economic benefit, Shurtleff points out “these industries and jobs are undermined by online counterfeiting and piracy.”
Hard-working Americans make great American products. We shouldn’t allow an international network of faceless criminals to seize or stifle this greatness.
01/05/2012 06:54 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
Last night, Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, spoke with Emily Chang on Bloomberg TV’s “Bloomberg West.” He talked about the importance of Congress acting now to pass legislation to target foreign criminal websites that profit from stolen American goods and content at the cost of American jobs.
He stated that the future of commerce and content on the Internet will be guided by technology companies and the entertainment industry growing together:
“The Internet has been an incredible asset for people all over the world, creating access to information that was unavailable even a few years ago. This ought not to be a situation where you have to choose between technology and content. Content needs technology and technology needs content; and these two communities absolutely need each other for the future.”
Senator Dodd also said we should focus on the real problem of foreign criminal websites:
“When you have international criminals, foreign sites stealing the intellectual property, the copyright of businesses, not only the film and television industry but also other industries that have knockoff products being stolen, intellectual property being stolen from aerospace, from things such as bulletproof vests and equipment for firefighters. This is a serious issue that deserves attention. I will give the technology industry credit for this. No one is arguing about whether we ought to deal with these rogue criminal foreign sites that steal American jobs and products. We all understand something needs to be done. We’re now arguing about how best to do this. And that’s a major breakthrough.”