Senator Wyden: RIAA, MPAA “Piggybacking” on Physical Theft Fears

Senator Wyden: RIAA, MPAA “Piggybacking” on Physical Theft Fears

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, says the Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act is the “wrong medicine” for battling online copyright infringement, and argues that if not done properly the “collateral damage would be American innovation, American jobs, and a secure Internet.”

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat responsible for putting a hold on the controversial Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act (COICA) last November, has now pointed out the curious manner in which the content industry has managed to “piggyback” on the concerns of industries that trade in physical or “real merchandise.”

The COICA would give the Department of Justice an “expedited process” for cracking down on websites that illegally make copyrighted material available, including the ability to “prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services offered by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities.”

The Bill’s sponsors believe the COICA would finally 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,” but Senator Wyden has called it the “wrong medicine” to cure the problem.

“Senator Wyden has long worked with U.S. industry on combating the trafficking of counterfeit goods like fake shoes and apparel,” his office told CNET earlier today. “But going after trade in real merchandise can be done in a variety of effective ways, like inspecting shipping containers at American ports of entry to identify and seize fake merchandise.”

Last October, a a group of more than 40 companies and business organizations wrote a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the main co-sponsors of the COICA, calling for action on the legislation prior to the close of the 111th Congress. Signatories like Chanel, Nike, and Oakley were listed alongside the likes of the RIAA and MPAA.

There’s a big difference in the concerns between the two because you can’t download a fake pair of shoes or shirt. Trying to filter the Internet at the risk of, as a group of 87 prominent engineers already pointed out, “fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS)” won’t change that.

“Unfortunately, the content industry has piggybacked on the legitimate efforts of apparel designers to combat counterfeit goods and now threaten the integrity of the Internet as a means to combat intellectual property infringement,” adds the statement by his office. “The Internet is too important to our economy and to advancing American values to be inappropriately regulated and censored under the guise of protecting IP, which is why Congress and the Administration should be as cautious as it is surgical when it aims its sights on the Internet.”

Part of the problem for the two types of copyright holders is that the content industry also faces a largely noncommercial type of copyright infringement. P2P isn’t done for financial gain. Some judges overseas have even compared it to the “ancient practice of loaning books.

Sharing CAM copies of Iron Man 2 isn’t the same as selling fake designer handbags, and it’s only by recognizing the difference between the two as Senator Wyden has that the govt can devise effective solutions to address the problem.

Stay tuned.

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