Event Video: What Should Lawmakers Do About Rogue Websites?

by on May 10, 2011 · 7 comments

POLITICO reports that a bill aimed at combating so-called “rogue websites” will soon be introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy. The legislation, entitled the PROTECT IP Act, will substantially resemble COICA (PDF), a bill that was reported unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee late last year but did not reach a floor vote. As more details about the new bill emerge, we’ll likely have much more to say about it here on TLF.

I discussed my concerns about and suggested changes to the COICA legislation here last November; the PROTECT IP Act reportedly contains several new provisions aimed at mitigating concerns about the statute’s breadth and procedural protections. However, as Mike Masnick points out on Techdirt, the new bill — unlike COICA — contains a private right of action, although that right may not permit rights holders to disable infringing domain names. Also unlike COICA, the PROTECT IP Act would apparently require search engines to cease linking to domain names that a court has deemed to be “dedicated to infringing activities.”

For a more in-depth look at this contentious and complex issue, check out the panel discussion that the Competitive Enterprise Institute and TechFreedom hosted last month. Our April 7 event explored the need for, and concerns about, legislative proposals to combat websites that facilitate and engage in unlawful counterfeiting and copyright infringement. The event was moderated by Juliana Gruenwald of National Journal. The panelists included me, Danny McPherson of VeriSign, Tom Sydnor of the Association for Competitive Technology, Dan Castro of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, David Sohn of the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Larry Downes of TechFreedom.

CEI-TechFreedom Event: What Should Lawmakers Do About Rogue Websites? from CEI Video on Vimeo.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

    Why does there have to be something done about “rogue” sites?

    I don’t understand it. You have people complaining that a website is somehow costing untold amounts of money… How? That’s not what this legislation is addressing.

    So you give a small group of people control over the internet for what reason? Why should a copyright holder, who usually isn’t the artist that’s created a work, be given special privilege in accusing people and sites of infringement without any type of representation in government?

    So the greatest thing to come out of this is not a consumer’s choice in how to find entertainment, but a copyright holder’s choice in who’s a criminal. I don’t see how this legislation is fair, balanced, or even necessary to the growth of the US economy. If anything, the litigation, the fear and uncertainty of the market from this bill will only make piracy and third party alternatives more attractive than what the copyright holders may have to offer.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

    Why does there have to be something done about “rogue” sites?

    I don’t understand it. You have people complaining that a website is somehow costing untold amounts of money… How? That’s not what this legislation is addressing.

    So you give a small group of people control over the internet for what reason? Why should a copyright holder, who usually isn’t the artist that’s created a work, be given special privilege in accusing people and sites of infringement without any type of representation in government?

    So the greatest thing to come out of this is not a consumer’s choice in how to find entertainment, but a copyright holder’s choice in who’s a criminal. I don’t see how this legislation is fair, balanced, or even necessary to the growth of the US economy. If anything, the litigation, the fear and uncertainty of the market from this bill will only make piracy and third party alternatives more attractive than what the copyright holders may have to offer.

  • Ryan Radia

    Jay, it’s not clear to me that something has to be done about rogue sites. There are good arguments for legislation; but also good arguments against it. While I haven’t yet seen the language of the PROTECT IP Act, as I understand the bill, rights holders would be required to obtain court orders issued pursuant to in personam actions before ad networks and/or payment processors would be legally required to disable service to sites “dedicated to infringing activities.” Moreover, a court order issued pursuant to the bill would be distinct from a finding of criminal copyright infringement. While I agree that creating a mechanism to disable domain names for allegedly facilitating copyright infringement raises free speech concerns, I don’t buy the argument that the legislation would “give control of the Internet” to a small group of people. Most sites wouldn’t be impacted by this bill, as most sites are primarily dedicated to noninfringing activities.

    The point of copyright law is to create “fear and uncertainty” surrounding the unlawful, willful distribution or facilitation of copyright infringing materials. There is a legitimate debate over the extent to which copyrights incentivize the creation of expressive works and reduce transactions costs involving expressions, but that debate is hardly unique to this legislative proposal

    . If copyright is bad, then so is this bill. If copyright is good, however, this bill is also good — that is, if it meaningfully reduces acts of infringement that reduce social welfare without burdening protected speech.

  • Ryan Radia

    Jay,
    it’s not clear to me that something has to be done about rogue sites.
    There are good arguments for legislation; but also good arguments
    against it. While I haven’t yet seen the language of the PROTECT IP Act,
    as I understand the bill, rights holders would be required to obtain
    court orders issued pursuant to in personam actions
    before ad networks and/or payment processors would be legally required
    to disable service to sites “dedicated to infringing activities.”
    Moreover, a court order issued pursuant to the bill would be distinct
    from a finding of criminal copyright infringement. While I agree that
    creating a mechanism to disable domain names for allegedly facilitating
    copyright infringement raises free speech concerns, I don’t buy the
    argument that the legislation would “give control of the Internet” to a
    small group of people. Most sites wouldn’t be impacted by this bill, as
    most sites are primarily dedicated to noninfringing activities.

    The point of copyright law is to create “fear and uncertainty”
    surrounding the unlawful, willful distribution or facilitation of
    copyright infringing materials. There is a legitimate debate over the
    extent to which copyrights incentivize the creation of expressive works
    and reduce transactions costs involving expressions, but that debate is
    hardly unique to this legislative proposal. If copyright is bad, then so
    is this bill. If copyright is good, however, this bill is also good —
    that is, if it meaningfully reduces acts of infringement that reduce
    social welfare without burdening protected speech.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

    -Sorry, double post-

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  • Pingback: The American Consumer Institute - » Christenson Blogs: Online Intellection Property Needs More Protection, but the “Protect IP Act is a Heavy-handed” Solution

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