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Alternative Online Piracy Legislative Proposal Released

A discussion draft proposal has just been released by a bipartisan group of legislators to serve as an alternative approach to SOPA, the House bill and PROTECT IP (PIPA), the Senate bill, in combating online piracy.  The authors of this draft framework for discussion include Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), as well as Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and John Campbell (R-CA). 

The proposal “updates import laws to respond to the challenges posed by the digital economy, so that illegal digital imports and digitally-facilitated imports of counterfeit goods are deterred.  This proposal would enable a U.S. rightsholder to petition the International Trade Commission (ITC) to launch an investigation into the imports in question.”  The ITC already handles intellectual property disputes related to imports.

Rightsholders would be able to petition the ITC for a "cease and desist" order, but only when the site in question is foreign and is "primarily" and "willfully" violating US law.  Sites would be notified and would have a right to be heard before decisions are made in most cases, and rulings could be appealed to a U.S. court by either party if desired.  Rep. Issa has said that “an advantage of designating a court of continued jurisdiction is that it facilitates immediate action to prevent harm to rightsholders, particularly helpful in online copyright enforcement where dozens of mirror sites with the same pirated content can spring up at once.

The framework offers two remedies if sites ignore the U.S.-based cease-and-desist order.  If such an order is issued, Internet advertising firms and financial providers would have to stop offering credit card payments and ads to the site in question.  This approach is in accord with current copyright law and adheres to the “follow the money” approach favored by technology companies and which has proven success against copyright infringement by U.S.-based counterfeit sites.

Website filtering and blocking by ISPs and DNS providers is not part of the plan, nor would search engines be required to remove links to such content.  This provision is of particular interest to our communities operating campus networks.

The two-page draft plan is being released now so that "the public can provide us with feedback and counsel before the proposal is formally introduced in the House and the Senate."

EDUCAUSE will continue to monitor and report on this proposal.