New intellectual property legislation, known as the Protect IP Act and proposed last month by a Senate bipartisan group, is being criticized for being too generic and too easy to manipulate. A hold has been put on the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011.
Critics say the proposal, designed to protect U.S. companies from Internet copyright infringement, would encourage enforcement outside the courts. The bill allows an accusation to be enough to block an online company’s website from American viewers.
The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation say the bill’s wording could leave the proposed law open to wide interpretation, not just by the legal system, but by ISPs and the individual companies who felt their rights had been violated.
Under the Protect IP Act, the U.S. Attorney General and U.S. companies who hold private intellectual property rights could sue and block suspect websites. ISPs would be forced to limit access to the alleged Internet pirates, even in advance of any lawsuit outcome.
The proposal does not discriminate between U.S. and foreign suspected violators. Unknown or foreign site owners could just as easily be blocked, before any court judgment, as could those within the U.S.
Bill opponents say e-commerce disruption could reach a personal level with the random blocking of e-mails, operating systems and routers. One worst-case scenario imagines that financial transaction businesses, like PayPal, could be upended by such legal restrictions.
The Protect IP Act critics say accused violators’ websites could be restricted at the whim of lawsuits’ plaintiffs and be shut down in the U.S. without warning or due process. Should the bill become law, an ISP would be forced to comply by blocking a suspected website at the ISP’s own unreimbursed expense. It seems that this bill could significantly change the face of intellectual property law. It will be interesting to see how other legislators react to it.
Source: The Mark, “A Cure Worse Than the Disease?” James Plotkin, 14 June 2011