Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Internet Service Providers And The PROTECT IP Act

[Amplifying comments made today on Vermont Public Radio, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday confirmed that as the sponsors of the PROTECT IP Act work to craft a managers’ amendment to the legislation, he will propose that further study be given to the bill’s provision concerning Internet Service Providers’ actions to prevent online infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods online.  The Senate is set to hold a procedural vote on the bipartisan legislation, which is sponsored by more than 40 Senators, on January 24.]

“The PROTECT IP Act provides new tools for law enforcement to combat rogue websites that operate outside our borders but target American consumers with stolen American property and counterfeits.  One of those tools enables law enforcement to secure a court order asking Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to use the Domain Name System to prevent consumer access to foreign rogue websites.  This provision was drafted in response to concerns that law enforcement has remedies it can take against domestic websites, but does not currently have the power to stop foreign rogue websites.  I worked closely with the ISPs in drafting this provision to ensure they were comfortable with how it would work, and I appreciate their support. 

“The process in drafting the legislation has always been an open one in which we have heard from all third parties, and have worked to address as many outstanding concerns as possible.  It is through this process that we have gained the support of the majority of third parties who will be asked to take action under the legislation, as well as a bipartisan group of 40 cosponsors in the Senate. 

“It is also through this process that I and the bill’s cosponsors have continued to hear concerns about the Domain Name provision from engineers, human rights groups, and others.  I have also heard from a number of Vermonters on this important issue.  I remain confident that the ISPs – including the cable industry, which is the largest association of ISPs – would not support the legislation if its enactment created the problems that opponents of this provision suggest.  Nonetheless, this is in fact a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it. 

“As I prepare a managers’ amendment to be considered during the floor debate, I will therefore propose that the positive and negative effects of this provision be studied before implemented, so that we can focus on the other important provisions in this bill, which are essential to protecting American intellectual property online, and the American jobs that are tied to intellectual property.  I regret that law enforcement will not have this remedy available to it when websites operating overseas are stealing American property, threatening the safety and security of American consumers.  However, the bill remains a strong and balanced approach to protecting intellectual property through a no-fault, no-liability system that leverages the most relevant players in the Internet ecosystem.”


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