OPEN Act Falls Short
Author:  Michael O'Leary
Date:  01/30/2012

The vigorous online piracy debate produced a critical consensus: stopping foreign criminals who profit from stolen creative content and counterfeit goods on their websites is important to protecting jobs and American intellectual property. Doing nothing is an option that has been taken off the table. Each day we fail to act, American jobs are placed at risk and more consumers will face serious dangers on the Internet, including unknowingly purchasing counterfeit products.

The question now is what is the best method to target these foreign criminal websites. We believe the legislation sponsored by Senator Wyden and Representative Issa, the OPEN Act, falls significantly short in targeting foreign criminal websites in several ways. 

SEARCH ENGINES ALLOWED TO BE PORTALS TO PIRACY. The OPEN Act denies the International Trade Commission (ITC) the authority they already have today to make search engines block infringing websites. Typically, the ITC can stop infringing material from being imported to the U.S. The OPEN Act omits language that requires search engines, like Google, to block “importation” of a link to foreign rogue websites.  

IT TAKES TOO LONG TO GET TO THE CRIMINALS. The OPEN Act re-writes a bureaucratic process instead of relying on experienced enforcement by the Attorney General and U.S. Federal Courts who have been successfully moving against criminal websites for years in the U.S., without any claims of breaking the Internet. This new hurdle – going through the ITC – creates a time consuming and costly method for all copyright holders to go after foreign thieves. The ITC takes an average of 18 months before issuing a final decision in a case.

SMALL BUSINESSES & ARTISTS ARE HURT MOST. The ones who are especially hurt by this new bureaucracy: American artists and small businesses, who will not have the means to come to Washington, DC to cut through the red tape to stop these thieves from stealing their content and goods. 

IT DOES NOT PROTECT CONSUMERS. The bill does not contain language to block dangerous goods, such as counterfeit drugs, from the American marketplace. It allows criminal foreign websites to continue to be a threat to American consumers.