Wyden, Issa Offer Protect IP Alternative

Hill debate about how to combat digital piracy continues

Hoping to stop the progress of bills under consideration in Congress that would put in place stricter laws to combat rogue websites, a bipartisan group of lawmakers offered a draft of an alternative bill on Thursday.

The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, or OPEN, is co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. They and eight other members of Congress floated a two-page concept paper last week. To solicit more feedback from both the public, industry, and advocacy organizations, the group has posted the legislation on a website, KeeptheWebOPEN.com.  

OPEN would allow the International Trade Commission to issue cease-and-desist orders to foreign websites that are stealing copyrighted material or selling counterfeit goods. Rights holders would have to petition the ITC to investigate cases of infringement on the Internet in order to stop advertising and payment to the sites. It is a different approach than the two leading bills on the subject—the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's Protect IP Act—which would authorize the government and copyright holders to demand websites delete links to rogue sites, and which critics have charged would potentially shut down the Internet as we know it.

"The draft bill is a marked improvement because it adheres to the successful 'follow-the-money' approach used well to shut down websites in other contexts such as Internet gambling, and because it makes certain that any actions are taken by official government enforcement agencies, not allowing for the vigilante justice in other bills," Sherwin Siy, the deputy legal director at liberal group Public Knowledge, said in a statement. 

But the content community, which has long backed get-tough legislation like SOPA and Protect IP, contends OPEN would go too easy on rogue websites. "By changing the venue from our federal courts to the U.S. International Trade Commission, it places copyright holders at a disadvantage and allows companies profiting from online piracy to advocate for foreign rogue websites against rightful American copyright holders," said Michael O'Leary, the Motion Picture Association of America's senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs.