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MPAA Slams New Piracy Bill

9 Dec, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

New draft legislation aiming to both fight digital piracy and protect Internet security was released to the public Dec. 8, and unlike two other bills introduced to Congress, this one looks to the U.S. International Trade Commission, or ITC.

Unlike the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act relies less on the courts and more on existing trade laws to counter the flow of illegal digital goods into the United States.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who also took the unusual step of launching a website (keepthewebopen.com) that asks for suggestions and potential edits to the bill, and lets citizens ask questions.

“Building on the International Trade Commission’s existing IP expertise and authority makes it possible to go after legitimate cases of IP abuse without doing irreparable harm to the Internet. It also just makes sense,” said Sen. Wyden. “It is our hope that proponents of other approaches won’t just dismiss our proposal, but will instead take this opportunity to engage us on the substance.”

Issa added that “butchering the Internet is not a way forward for America,” a comment about provisions of the SOPA and PROTECT IP acts that critics say could prohibit free speech and enterprise on the Internet.

The OPEN Act would expand the ITC’s current authority to enforce copyright and trademark infringement as it applies to the import of physical goods, empowering U.S. copyright holders “to petition the ITC to investigate cases of illegal digital imports just as they currently petition the ITC to investigate infringement cases involving physical goods,” according to a statement.

If the ITC were to find that a foreign-registered website was infringing on the IP rights of a U.S. rights holder, “the commission would issue a cease and desist order that would compel payment processors and online advertising providers to cease doing business with the foreign sites in question.”

The Consumer Electronics Association, or CEA, praised the legislation.

“The OPEN Act is a smart, targeted approach to the very real problem of foreign 'rogue' websites,” said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. “For too long, some in this debate have presented a false choice — either accept draconian, harmful legislation, or let pirates run amok. By contrast, the OPEN Act provides a quick, effective way to shut down pirate sites without damaging legitimate companies or enriching trial lawyers.”

However, the Motion Picture Association of America slammed the OPEN Act as an ineffective way “to target foreign rogue websites and goes easy on online piracy and counterfeiting.”

“By changing the venue from our federal courts to the U.S. International Trade Commission, it places copyright holders at a disadvantage and allows companies profiting from online piracy to advocate for foreign rogue websites against rightful American copyright holders,” said Michael O’Leary, senior EVP for global policy and external affairs for MPAA. “It even allows notification to some of these companies if they want to help advocate for rogue websites.”

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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