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Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA)

Senator Leahy (D-VT) recently introduced revised legislation to target websites aimed at enabling copyright and trademark infringement, “The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act”, or “PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).”  Last year’s legislation, “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) did not come to a floor vote.  PIPA was introduced with number of substantive changes from the previous legislation.  Those changes narrow the bill's reach in some respects, but the new bill also adds some new remedies and continues to feature domain-name-blocking provisions.

PIPA will provide law enforcement with tools to stop websites dedicated to online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods.  Key updates include:

  • A narrower definition of an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities”;
  • Authorization for the Attorney General to serve an issued court order on a search engine, in addition to payment processors, advertising networks and Internet service providers;
  • Authorization for both the Attorney General and rights holders to bring actions against online infringers operating an internet site or domain where the site is “dedicated to infringing activities,” but with remedies limited to eliminating the financial viability of the site, not blocking access;
  • Requirement of plaintiffs to attempt to bring an action against the owner or registrant of the domain name used to access an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities” before bringing an action against the domain name itself;
  • Protection for domain name registries, registrars, search engines, payment processors, and advertising networks from damages resulting from their voluntary action against an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities,” where that site also “endangers the public health,” by offering controlled or non-controlled prescription medication. 

PIPA is supported by a variety of groups that represent copyright owners, such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Alliance of Safe Online Pharmacy, and Eli Lilly.  Supporters say such a bill is necessary to stop the mass pirating of intellectual property occurring online, which costs U.S. businesses billions in lost revenue and thousands of jobs.

Critics, which include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, prominent technologists, and the American Civil Liberties Union, say the bill would equip the government with the means to silence dissenting opinion at will.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has raised concerns about the legislation. He said the bill in part improves on COICA, but has some highly problematic sections.  The bill "puts forward several new provisions that would have serious ramifications for Internet speech and commerce."

Leahy and Hatch introduced COICA in September 2010, and in November 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the legislation by a vote of 19-0.  In February 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing examining the impact of online infringement and counterfeit sales.  Mark-up of the PIPA bill is scheduled for Thursday, May 26, 2011.


It could reduce some problems but not a lot. U.S. does not have jurisdictions over the rest of the world, therefore, not likely to be able to stop infringements by site owners and businesses located outside of the USA.