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.’”

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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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Remember the iPod?

by Paul Hortenstine 11/16/2011 07:20 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Remember the iPod?  It was a sleek, well designed portable music device that had so much potential.  Tragically, content protection law killed it off in the summer of 2005.

At least that’s what the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) predicted in June 2004.  The EFF stated that the Induce Act could “potentially outlaw everything from CD burners to the iPod.”   That act did not pass, but after the Supreme Court implemented much of the Induce Act in a June 2005 decision, the opposite was true.  

In June 2005, the Supreme Court issued its decision in MGM v. Grokster, declaring that “one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties.”  This essentially implemented important parts of the Induce Act that EFF criticized a year earlier.

And here’s what happened: just last month, Apple reported that 16 billion iTunes songs have been downloaded and 300 million iPods have been sold.

This prediction is important when considering what critics of proposed content protection laws are saying now.  

Today, the House Judiciary is holding a hearing on important content protection and rogue sites legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R.3261).    This bill and similar legislation in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act (S.968), have bipartisan support and will preserve American jobs and target foreign websites that steal and profit from counterfeit goods and stolen creative content like books and movies and music.

Unfortunately, opponents of rogue sites legislation are continuing with their sky is falling rhetoric.  The EFF is currently warning that the Stop Online Piracy Act will squelch free speech and threaten the existence of many well-known websites such as Etsy, Flickr, and Vimeo, stating that “one very possible outcome [of the Stop Online Piracy Act]: many of the lawful sites you know and love will face new legal threats.”

The EFF was wrong about content protection law in 2004 and they’re wrong again now.

If rogue sites legislation passes, American jobs will be protected and the Internet will continue to be alive with innovation, commerce and free speech.  Content protection laws have given us the Internet of today and enabled the legal distribution of protected content like music or movies that are available on the iPod.  So just keep in mind the track record of critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act.    

Categories: Content Protection, Policy

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Rogue Sites Legislation and the DMCA

by Paul Hortenstine 11/15/2011 07:22 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

There has been lot of discussion recently about important rogue sites legislation in Congress.   In particular, there has been debate about how this legislation would change current copyright law, especially the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  

An important part of the DMCA gives legally operating websites safe harbor when they remove material that infringes on copyrights after receiving notification.   Rogue sites legislation does nothing to legally operating websites.  It continues to give safe harbor to legally operating sites under the DMCA.   Rogue sites legislation targets foreign sites that are trafficking in stolen and counterfeit goods and content. 

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on rogue sites legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261).  This bill and similar legislation in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act (S.968), will preserve American jobs and target foreign websites that steal and profit from counterfeit goods and stolen creative content like books, movies and music.  Both bills have bipartisan support and are backed by a broad coalition of business and labor groups. 

Today, a group of companies—AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo and Zynga—released a letter opposing rogue sites legislation that specifically cited the DMCA safe harbor provisions:

“We are very concerned that the bills as written [H.R.3261 and S.968] would seriously undermine the effective mechanism Congress enacted in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to provide a safe harbor for Internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites.”

And on Monday, Markham Erickson, Executive Director of Net Coalition, wrote in The Hill’s Congress Blog on rogue sites legislation and the DMCA, stating, 

“Both bills gut the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which for over a decade has helped Internet companies grow and flourish.  The DMCA is one of the big reasons companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter weren’t crushed in their early days by harassing lawsuits.”

The DMCA and other copyright laws have given us the Internet of today, alive with innovation, commerce and free speech.  But rogue sites legislation does not undermine or “gut” the DMCA.  Again, rogue sites legislation does nothing to change the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions, which will continue as law if rogue sites legislation is passed. 

Rogue sites legislation targets foreign rogue sites.   It goes after sites that are dedicated to pirating copyrighted works and peddling counterfeit goods.   Legally operating sites will continue to have the same protections they have under DMCA.

What is missing from this debate is how the DMCA is ineffective in targeting foreign sites dedicated to selling pirated content and counterfeit goods.  The DMCA is often effective in removing copyrighted material from legitimate websites but it is not effective in targeting foreign rogue sites that are designed to sell pirated content. 

The DMCA can be an effective tool in notifying website operators of copyright infringing materials made available through their websites.  Compliance, of course, varies.  The DMCA is most helpful to copyright holders only in cases in which the website is not primarily designed or dedicated to infringing activity.  Legitimate websites with low levels of copyright infringement can be managed through DMCA notices and adherence to a reasonable DMCA policy. 
 
However, rogue websites that are designed to allow users to easily and reliably locate copyright infringing material commonly ignore DMCA requests or only comply after long periods of time after illegal files are repeatedly viewed.  The DMCA also does not fare well in addressing the large scale rogue websites that host millions of files and receive hundreds of thousands of uploads daily.  Copyright holders simply cannot locate all the illegal files uploaded to these websites despite costly and time consuming efforts to scan the Internet for these files.  The illegal files that are reported using the DMCA are commonly re-uploaded to the same websites within minutes and without restriction.  Many large scale rogue sites even furnish illegal uploaders with notice that files have been taken down or tools to check whether their files have been taken down so that the same files can be re-uploaded.  This creates a situation where a website can act on DMCA notices, but still enjoy high levels of copyright infringement and the resulting profit from this Internet traffic.

So, rogue sites legislation creates new tools to go after these foreign rogues sites dedicated to criminal activity, which the DMCA has had limited success in targeting.  Rogue sites legislation targets foreign online criminals and their access to the U.S. market.  Operators of legitimate websites should welcome this legislation. 

Categories: Content Protection, Copyright, Policy

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Leading Public Safety and Law Enforcement Groups Support Rogue Sites Legislation

by Paul Hortenstine 11/14/2011 12:07 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Today, fifteen leading groups from across the criminal justice system joined together in writing a letter to members of Congress that urged them to support rogue sites legislation, the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act.  They joined a broad and growing coalition that backs rogue sites legislation, which will be the subject of a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

The PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House have bipartisan support and will preserve American jobs and target foreign websites that steal and profit from counterfeit goods and stolen creative content like books, movies and music. 

The letter states:


“We the undersigned associations representing the state and local criminal justice community write to urge your support for legislation that would strengthen U.S. law enforcement’s capacity to take action against foreign ‘rogue’ websites that traffic in stolen and counterfeit American-made products which pose a severe risk to health and public safety and which help to finance criminal activity within our borders.”

“While counterfeiting and content theft are not new, the proliferation and extent of these activities are unprecedented today. Criminals have turned to the Internet, abusing its virtually unlimited distribution opportunities to expand their illegal activities and increase their profits. Many of these sites are based overseas yet rely on U.S. Internet service providers, search engines, payment processors, and advertising services to reach U.S. consumers. Many of these sites deceive Internet users into thinking they are legitimate by accepting major credit cards as forms of payment and featuring advertising from well-known U.S. companies. And they are succeeding; a recent study found that just a small sample of 43 rogue sites generate over 53 billion visits a year.”

The letter was addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Charles Grassley and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers. 

The letter was organized by the National Criminal Justice Association and signed by the National Sheriffs Association, Major County Sheriffs, Major City Chiefs, National Center for Victims of Crime, National Fusion Center, National District Attorneys Association, Council of State Governments, International Union of Police Associations, Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, National Troopers Coalition, National Domestic Preparedness Coalition, National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, and National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

This letter adds to the support already expressed by other public safety and emergency responder groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Fire Fighters, Congressional Fire Services Institute, state attorneys general, EMS and emergency management associations, campus law enforcement administrators, and private sector security.

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Growing Support for Rogue Sites Legislation in Pennsylvania

by Paul Hortenstine 11/11/2011 11:49 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Support for rogue sites legislation keeps growing in Pennsylvania.   This week, the mayor of Pittsburgh joined Philadelphia’s mayor in pledging his support for legislation that targets rogue sites and preserves jobs. 

The PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House have bipartisan support and will preserve American jobs and target foreign websites that steal and profit from counterfeit goods and stolen creative content like books, movies and music.

On Wednesday, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wrote a letter in support of the PROTECT IP Act to Senators Robert Casey (a cosponsor of the bill) and Pat Toomey as well as Representative Mike Doyle.  He wrote,  

“When American-made products are counterfeited or stolen by foreign rogue websites (those dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy), American workers lose out on wages and benefits.  The U.S. economy loses $58 billion in annual economic output as a result of copyright theft of movies, music, packaged software and video games.  Our current economic climates does not allow for such loses.  The PROTECT IP Act addresses the threat posed to jobs and the economy by foreign-based rogue websites.”

The motion picture and television industry is directly responsible for 18,181 jobs and $756.3 million in wages in Pennsylvania, including production and distribution related jobs.  Nationally, 2.2 million American workers, from accountants to truck drivers to florists to make-up artists, have jobs that depend on the film and television industry.

Many major television and motion pictures have filmed in Pennsylvania.   Recently, big budget thrillers “The Dark Knight Rises” and “One Shot” filmed in Pittsburgh and the television show “Elixir” is currently in production.  Philadelphia has had its share of productions, including the recent hit “Limitless.”   In 2009 and 2010, a total of 34 films and 25 TV projects filmed in Pennsylvania, including “Law Abiding Citizen,” “Love and Other Drugs,” and “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Mayor Ravenstahl joined another Pennsylvania mayor in support of rogue sites legislation. On October 20, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia wrote a letter to members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation in support of rogue websites legislation.  He wrote,

“Intellectual property theft and the sale of counterfeit goods cause serious negative consequences in the US’s major cities. When foreign entities infringe upon the rights of US copyright holders or produce counterfeit US products, our economy suffers. Furthermore, counterfeit goods may pose more direct risks to consumers because counterfeit goods may be of such poor quality that they jeopardize the health and safety of their users.”

Rogue sites legislation is also supported by the bipartisan U.S. Conference of mayors.  In June, the conference adopted a resolution in support of rogue sites legislation:

“[T]he U.S. Conference of Mayors calls upon Congress to pass the PROTECT IP ACT and S. 978, as much needed and important legislative initiatives to increase the ability of U.S. law enforcement to go after profit-making entities who willfully and knowingly steal intellectual property, with little or no regard for the cost in dollars, jobs, U.S. creativity and ingenuity, and revenue for cities across America.”

Categories: Content Protection, Job Production, Policy

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Rogue Sites Dangerous to Consumers Buying Prescription Medication Online

by Paul Hortenstine 11/11/2011 07:25 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

An opinion piece in the Washington Times shows just how dangerous rogue sites are to consumers purchasing medicine online and it urges passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act to help curb the trafficking in tainted medicine.  Millions of Americans enjoy the convenience of purchasing prescription medicines over the Internet.   They search online for a pharmacy that will fill and mail their prescription.  However, they are often taking advantage of by rogue sites that appear to be legitimate.  These sites knowingly sell counterfeit drugs and tainted medicine that has unfortunately led to debilitating sickness and even death. 

The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate have bipartisan support and will help target rogue sites profiting from counterfeit medicine and stolen creative content like books, movies and music.  The legislation will also preserve the 2.2 million American jobs of people who work in the television and film industry. 

In the Washington Times article, Libby Baney of the Alliance of Safe Online Pharmacies writes that rogue sites have affected her family:

“In December 2009, my sister Ali decided to refill her supply of allergy medication, a drug she had taken for years, by using what she assumed was a legitimate Internet site. On Christmas Eve, after taking the drug, she became violently ill and suffered intense migraine headaches. Ali had thought she was buying her usual prescription medication. Unfortunately, her trusted medicine is not what she received.  After Ali recovered, she learned that the website she used did not meet the rigorous Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) accreditation standards put in place by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).”

And the money used to purchase medication on these rogue sites often goes to fund organized crime:

“The Internet allows these illegitimate online drug sellers to operate without much fear of consequences. The small packages of fake drugs are often shipped through three or four locations, masking their true origin and making them hard to track or control. Even more chilling is that these rogue drug sites often trace back to complex organized criminal networks that are manufacturing unregulated and dangerous medicines and are knowingly peddling these dangerous drugs to consumers around the world. Rogue Internet drug sites are often a major source of funds for criminal networks.”

Rogue sites also enable people who buy medication without a prescription:

“Recent research conducted by the Partnership at Drugfree.org found that 1 in 6 Americans - 36 million people - purchase prescription medication via the Internet without a valid prescription. When consumers purchase from a website that does not adhere to U.S. law governing the use of prescriptions, they bypass all the protections put in place to protect them; namely, that the medicines are safe and have been prescribed by a physician, and that the prescription has been dispensed by a licensed U.S. pharmacist in a licensed U.S. pharmacy.”

Baney urges passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act to help target these rogue sites: 

“The bill addresses a number of important intellectual-property issues. It also helps protect consumers against the public health threat of illicit sales of medications online. The bill encourages private companies to stop doing business with illegal online drug sellers that endanger public health. Included are companies that host these sites, provide associated advertising or help facilitate their payment transactions. If enacted, this legislation could help shut down the worst-of-the-worst rogue Internet drug sellers.”

Counterfeit products on rogue sites are also a danger to the military.  This week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on its investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the Department of Defense supply chain.  The defense industry is very susceptible to counterfeit parts because many defense systems rely on electronic parts that are no longer produced by the original manufacturer.   Defense contractors purchase replacement parts from independent sellers, often over the Internet.

In March, the committee began an investigation into the defense supply chain—including defense contractors and subcontractors—about the unknowing purchase of counterfeit components for such things as aircraft and missile systems, often through the Internet.  So far, it has found over 1 million suspect counterfeit electronic parts that were purchased.   More than 70% of the counterfeit parts originated in China.

Categories: Content Protection, Policy

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