PROTECT IP Act would give the Department of Justice the power to force ISPs and search engines to block access to infringing sites. Bill now moves forward to a full vote by the Senate.
Late last week the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the controversial “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act,” or “PROTECT IP Act as it’s known, giving the Department of Justice and copyright holders greatly expanded powers in the battle against online infringement.
“Today the Judiciary Committee took an important step in protecting online intellectual property rights,” said Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) afterwards. “The Internet is not a lawless free-for-all where anything goes. The Constitution protects both property and speech, both online and off.”
First proposed earlier this month, the PROTECT IP Act would give the Attorney General the power to force US based third-parties, including ISPs, payment processors, online advertising network providers, and search engines to either block access to an infringing site or cease doing business with it.
Copyright holders would be able to target payment processors and online advertising network providers.
“Increased online theft of intellectual property has become a rampant problem,” added Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “The impact of copyright piracy and sale of counterfeit goods imposes a huge cost on the American economy – lost jobs, lost sales, and lost income. This bill will help to protect against harmful counterfeit and pirated products that cause damage to both the economy and the health and safety of the consumer.”
Copyright holder groups like the MPAA and RIAA are obviously pleased with the news.
“It’s essential that we reign in online thieves and business models predicated on ripping off America’s songwriters, musicians and performers,” said Mitch Bainwol, RIAA Chairman. “A review of the most frequently visited web sites – including those specializing in pre-release songs that are not yet even available in the legitimate marketplace — feature banner ads for some of America’s best known companies.
The MPAA also welcomed passage of thge PROTECT IP Act.
“The Judiciary Committee took an important step today to stop theft and save jobs,” said Michael O’Leary, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs of the MPAA. “By helping shut down rogue websites that profit from stolen films, television shows, and other counterfeit goods, this legislation will protect wages and benefits for the millions of middle class workers who bring America’s creativity to life.”
Critics, however abound.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has reminded people of the fact that it could have serious domain name system (DNS) implications.
When COICA was introduced in the Senate last fall, EFF wrote about its dangerous implications for the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). These remain true for PIPA, despite the removal of a provision that would have required registrars and registries to block domain names pointing to sites “dedicated to infringing activities.” Because blocking via registries and registrars underlies Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ongoing practice of seizing domain names, taking this device out of PIPA is small gain. The bill will still require targeted DNS server operators like ISPs to prevent an identified domain name from resolving to the domain’s IP address, thereby preventing their users from accessing those sites. As a result, the warnings that we and others gave last year about serious security vulnerabilities and a fractured Internet are unchanged.
Public Knowledge said it was “disappointed” with the news.
“We are disappointed that the Senate Judiciary Committee today approved legislation (S. 968) that will threaten the security and global functioning of the Internet, and opens the door to nuisance lawsuits while doing little if anything to curb the issues of international source of illegal downloads the bill seeks to address,” said Sherwin Siy, the group’s deputy legal director. o
That’s the real problem. Internet users will still be able to bypass any proposed search engine filter or ISP-level site blocking, and foreign infringing sites will still be accessible.
The PROTECT IP Act talks about “safeguards” like allowing domain name operators or site owners to petition the court to have the orders vacated, but it still occurs after the fact and the damage done.