US Chamber of Commerce: “Censoring Foreign P2P Sites Not Censorship”

US Chamber of Commerce: “Censoring Foreign P2P Sites Not Censorship”

Steve Tepp, Senior Director of Internet Counterfeiting and Piracy for the U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center, argues that recently proposed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act does not amount to ” foreign political censorship” even though the bill would force ISPs to “prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services offered by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities,” and it’s unlikely accused website operators from around the globe would be able to appear in a US courtroom to dispute the charges.

The US Chamber of Commerce is trying to counter critics claims that recently proposed legislation would not be tantamount to “foreign political censorship.”

Earlier this month group of Senators announced the introduction of the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” which they believe would give the Dept of Justice the tools it needs to track and shut down “websites devoted to providing access to unauthorized downloads, streaming or sale of copyrighted content and counterfeit goods.”

The Bill would give courts the power to order ISPs to “prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services offered by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities,” and will force ISPs to “take reasonable steps that will prevent a domain name from resolving to that domain name’s Internet protocol address.”

Critics have blasted the legislation for being tantamount to illegal censorship of the web, particularly being that many website operators would be denied due process due to the unreasonable demand of having to travel from around the globe in order to appear in a US courtroom to fight the claims of copyright infringement.

Steve Tepp, Senior Director of Internet Counterfeiting and Piracy for the U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center, has now responded to this criticism in oddly worded response.

“Online counterfeiting and piracy is a destructive force that hurts the American economy, and the Leahy-Hatch bill addresses this illegal behavior by targeting the worst of the worst counterfeiters and copyright pirates online,” he says. “The assertion that this legislation equates to foreign political censorship is erroneous and does not accurately reflect this bill. Effective action against criminals whose products can kill and whose illicit profits steal American jobs is vastly different from foreign political censorship.”

Again we see a group trying to equate physical commercial piracy, even going to the extreme of using the example of fake pharmaceutical goods, as a justification to block noncommercial P2P sites. CAM copies of Iron Man 2 are unlikely to ever have caused any deaths, let alone created “profits that steal American jobs.”

Tepp says the legislation doesn’t equate to foreign censorship, but he goes on to say that it’s needed in light of the fact that “some countries have not succeeded in enforcing those [WTO] rules [regarding online piracy] effectively.” So I guess in his mind it’s okay to let US courts do the job of other countries even if it means the accused will likely be unable to have their day in court.

“This legislation provides a critically-needed tool to try to address what is globally acknowledged as criminal activity to protect America’s economic interests,” he adds.

File-sharing is hardly a criminal activity in the sense that he presumes it to be. File-sharing is exactly that – sharing – and to argue otherwise causes a loss of all credibility. True criminal activity means making a profit on the backs of the hard work of others. If file-sharing was stealing American jobs then why is is that the motion picture industry has enjoyed year after year of record breaking profits? Global ticket sales are up some 30% since 2005. Sounds like the motion picture industry is the one doing the stealing if he’s complaining about some intangible number of jobs lost.

Even the Government Accountability Office has acknowledged that the “illicit nature” of piracy means there is no real way to quantify actual losses, and that some studies have in fact shown piracy to have a “potential positive economic effect.”

The GAO found what most already knew: the effects of piracy aren’t as simple as lost sales or profits, that counterfeiting and piracy has had a range of effects, some negative, others positive. It cited lost profits and tax revenue as negatives for businesses and govt, but that consumers benefited from increased access and lower costs.

For Tepp it seems these arguments are a moot point.

“This bill targets illegal activity that costs American jobs and harms consumers,” he continues. “It is desperately needed and will send a clear signal that online counterfeiting and piracy is a crime and cannot be tolerated.”

Again, CAM copies of Iron Man 2 are not likely to have harmed anyone, especially consumers, and in cases where workprint copies of movies have leaked to BitTorrent before their big screen debut, they have still gone on to do extremely well at the box office.

Moreover, if we allow the govt to begin filtering websites without any public input or without a chance for the accused to properly dispute the charges then we provide for the creation of a slippery slope in which definitions can change over time.

Case in point is how the MPAA recently asked if the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) being negotiated could be used to cut off access to “damaging” sites such as WikiLeaks.

Do we really want to start filtering the Internet in the name of protecting corporate profits, especially if it’s unlikely to make them any more money? Internet users will be able to use proxies, VPNs, and a wide variety of other tools to evade any filtering mechanisms.

The only thing the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” will “protect” and “create” are copyright holders and a draconian system of de facto Internet censorship.

Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation has said that it would essentially give the govt the power to “break the Internet one domain at a time,” including even this very site, yours truly,


“Sites that discuss and advocate for P2P technology or for piracy, like, p2pnet, InfoAnarchy, Slyck and ZeroPaid: while these sites contain a great deal of news and political speech, they also regularly link to tools and information intended for file sharing, and the DOJ could well decide that infringement is “central” to their purpose and take the entire sites offline,” notes the EFF. “That outcome would be fundamentally contradictory to freedom of speech.”

So basically what the entertainment industry wants is, instead of simply being content with asking sites to remove copyrighted material, it wants the power to take down whole sites instead!

While President Obama condemns China and Iran for a closed and censored Internet policy, why is he silent while it happens here at home?

Moreover, the whole premise for the legislation – that jobs will be protected or created – is false. The legislation will prevent US citizens from accessing foreign P2P sites, and thereby copyrighted material, in order to force them into becoming paying customers of a given copyright holder’s industry.

This money has to come from somewhere.

File-sharers haven’t been stuffing what they would have otherwise paid to access copyrighted material under their mattress. This means that some of the money they would have otherwise spent on say a new shirt, shoes, a dinner, drinks with their buddies, or tires for their car, will now be diverted to copyright holders like the motion picture industry.

I guess for the MPAA record profits is not enough.

I’d say Tepp is simply uninformed, but considering he also touted the recent bogus Business Software Alliance (BSA) study, the one that rehashed the tired 1:1 lost sale argument, it might be that Tepp actually believes in his dubious claims. It’s worth noting that in that study too it was suggested that a reduction in piracy would lead to the magical creation of revenue and jobs, though from where was also conveniently left out.

Stay tuned.

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