Protecting American Innovation By Protecting Intellectual Property
Creative and inventive Vermonters are the designers and manufacturers of goods that are prized by consumers around the world. Intellectual property – copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets – is an ever-growing sector of our economy. The United States is the envy of the world for the quality, and the quantity, of our innovative and creative goods and services. Senator Leahy believes that if we are to continue to lead the world in innovation, invention and creativity, we must protect our citizens’ rights to that intellectual property.
The PROTECT IP Act, introduced by Senator Leahy and sponsored by 40 senators, will help protect American intellectual property by cracking down on rogue websites dedicated to the sale of infringing or counterfeit goods through foreign-based websites outside the scope of current U.S. law. The sale of such goods reportedly costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year, which in turn impacts the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Americans. The sale of these counterfeit or infringing goods also results in billions of dollars in lost tax revenue for federal, state and local governments.
There is no question that something must be done to stop the illegal activity conducted by these foreign websites. If these virtual storefronts sold infringing or counterfeit goods in the physical world, law enforcement would have the tools needed to shut them down. The Internet must be free; but it cannot be lawless.
The PROTECT IP Act targets the worst-of-the-worst infringers, blocking access only to foreign-registered websites. No part of the PROTECT IP Act will allow for access to a blog to be cut. Nothing in the PROTECT IP Act can be used to shut off access to YouTube, Facebook, eBay, or any site that has non-infringing uses. No provision in the PROTECT IP Act will require websites, Internet service providers, search engines, ad networks, payment processors, or any other party to monitor their networks. Nothing in the PROTECT IP Act criminalizes linking to any other site, or imposes any liability on anyone or any party. No action is required by the PROTECT IP Act without a court order, and no part of the PROTECT IP Act allows a court to issue an order against a website without providing the same due process provided in any federal court action.
Nothing in the PROTECT IP Act makes any activity illegal that is not already illegal.
The Internet is a powerful, useful, and revolutionary tool that has connected the world in ways never before seen. But the rights of intellectual property owners must be respected in the virtual marketplace the same way they are respected in the physical one. The PROTECT IP Act balances preserving a free and open Internet with the need to protect these rights – and in turn creates American jobs, promotes America’s economy, and protects American consumers.
The PROTECT IP Act supplements existing authority used for Operation In Our Sites to authorize the Justice Department to file a civil action against the registrant or owner of a rogue website, or the foreign-registered domain name directly. Under the PROTECT IP Act, if the court issues a cease and desist order, law enforcement is authorized to serve that order on Internet service providers, payment processors, online advertising network providers, and search engines.
The PROTECT IP Act similarly authorizes rights holders that are the victims of the infringement, or law enforcement, to bring an action against the registrant or owner of a rogue website, whether foreign or domestically registered, and to seek a cease and desist order from the court.
The PROTECT IP Act ensures that third-parties are not overly burdened to comply with an order by stipulating that the party is not required to take action beyond what is technically feasible and reasonable. The third-party would not be liable for any action or inaction, unless in contempt of court.
The PROTECT IP Act includes due process safeguards for operators of alleged rogue websites by explicitly ensuring courts follow the traditional Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for notice and opportunity to respond, and allowing the domain name owner or site operator to petition the court at any time to suspend or vacate the order, including in the situation in which the Internet site at issue is no longer, or never was, dedicated to infringing activities, or the interests of justice require it.
The PROTECT IP Act also protects payment processors and Internet advertising networks that voluntarily cease doing business with infringing websites, even in the absence of a court order, by immunizing those parties from damages resulting from actions taken against a rogue website if they have a good faith belief on credible evidence that the site is dedicated to infringing activities.
The PROTECT IP Act protects consumers against counterfeit, adulterated, or misbranded pharmaceutical products sold on the Internet by providing a safe harbor for domain name registries, registrars, search engines, payment processors, and advertising networks to take voluntary action against any infringing website that “endangers the public health” by offering such dangerous medication.
- Leahy: Senate Should Focus On Stopping Online Theft That Undercuts Economic Recovery, January 23, 2012
- Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Postponement Of The Vote On Cloture On The Motion To Proceed To The PROTECT IP Act, January 20, 2012
- Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On DOJ’s Action Against MegaUpload.com And Online Infringement, January 19, 2012
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