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Law Professors Deem PROTECT IP Unconstitutional

12 Jul, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

More than 100 university law professors from 31 states have come out against the controversial antipiracy legislation currently before the U.S. Senate, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP.

The professors write that the law goes too far in that it will give the federal government the power to shut down a website accused of copyright infringement — via the site’s Internet service provider — even before the site owner has been notified or before infringement has actually been established.

“Although the problems the act attempts to address — online copyright and trademark infringement — are serious ones presenting new and difficult enforcement challenges, the approach taken in the act has grave constitutional infirmities, potentially dangerous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet's addressing system, and will undermine United States foreign policy and strong support of free expression on the Internet around the world,” the July 5 letter reads.

The law professors argue there are three major problems with the legislation: It would suppress speech without a proper hearing or notification; it “breaks” the Internet’s infrastructure by undermining the principle of domain names; and it would undermine the United State’s position as the leader of free speech and hurt the free exchange of information on the Internet.

“The act represents a retreat from the United States’ strong support of freedom of expression and the free exchange of information and ideas on the Internet,” the letter reads. “At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, the act would incorporate into U.S. law — for the first time — a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law.”

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