Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden has a better way to challenge online piracy. He would engage and update existing trade models to enforce intellectual property rights online.
A DAY of online protests by Wikipedia, Google and kindred spirits had politicians in both parties skittering away from anti-piracy legislation that carried the lobbying imprimaturs of traditional media forces on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon had sounded an alarm — scarcely noticed six months ago — with a hold on the Protect Intellectual Property Act. The House companion measure was the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Lots of visceral support, but no one claims to know what it meant.
Members of Congress, animated but less than current on the issues, were rallied by the movie industry, recording companies and publishers to stop online piracy — illegal downloading and abuse of copyright protections.
The legislation, promoted by industries that have been less than adroit at keeping pace with changing technology, was narrowly crafted to clamp down on violators, with little sensitivity to broader issues.
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The Obama administration bailed out, as it expressed concerns over freedom of expression, cybersecurity risks and impacts on the “dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
Wyden, who slowed down bad legislation, has a better response: the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act.
His approach would use the International Trade Commission’s existing authority to enforce “copyright and trademark infringement as it currently applies to the import of physical goods.” Those protections would be extended to the online world.
If ITC investigations revealed a foreign-registered site violated the intellectual property rights of U.S. rights-holders, the trade group would compel those who process domestic payments and advertise the illegal goods to stop.
The legislation, which has attracted the support of Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, ramps up existing systems to work online and raise the visibility of the topic to international levels.
The implicit threat is broader consequences for countries that do not take care of business close to home.
Wyden sees a bigger picture than the two anti-piracy bills that inspired a protest that got noticed.