The debate over how to stop foreign Web sites from stealing copyright works or selling counterfeit goods has been one of the most contentious on Capitol Hill, pitting big media interests such as the Motion Picture Association of America against big Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook. So far, those opposed to the two bills circulating in Congress, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PROTECT IP, have not offered any alternative—until now
A bipartisan group of four Senators and six Representatives are floating legislation that would rely on the International Trade Commission to resolve complaints between U.S. intellectual property rights holders and rogue Web sites. The signees are circulating the draft proposal before crafting language for the bill to be introduced early next year.
Among the 10 who has signed onto the draft is Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has put a hold on PROTECT IP from reaching the floor, Rep. Darrell Issa, R.-Calif., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who floated the idea two weeks ago during a House Judiciary hearing on SOPA.
"By putting the regulatory power in the hands of the International Trade Commission, versus a diversity of magistrate judges not versed in Internet and trade policy, will ensure a transparent process in which import policy is fairly and consistently applied and all interests are taken into account," reads the draft proposal.
Opponents to SOPA and PROTECT IP have argued that the current bills go too far by requiring IP providers, networks, and other third parties to cease linking to these websites, potentially disrupting the thriving Internet business and threatening free speech.
Under the alternative bill, U.S. rights holders would petition the ITC to launch an investigation into whether sites that steal copyrights or sell counterfeit goods are violating U.S. trademarks and copyrights and issue a cease-and-desist order. As part of the order, financial institutions and ad networks would be compelled to stop transactions with the sites.