PROTECT IP Act progress halted
By Colin Mann

Although the US Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP Act on May 26, its progress was halted within hours after Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, put a hold on the bill preventing it from going to the full Senate.

The PROTECT IP Act is similar in many respects to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which Senator Patrick Leahy introduced in 2010. COICO would have allowed the Attorney General to bring legal action and create a blacklist of rogue websites.

The PROTECT IP Act provides a narrow definition of what infringing activities that the Justice Department would use to identify rogue sites. It would also give the Attorney General authority to bring action – including seeking financial restitution – against those sites. Rights holders would be eligible to sue rogue websites for copyright infringements..

A broad coalition of 170 trade groups and businesses such as Nike, Ford, Estée Lauder, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the National Basketball Association, sent a letter of support to the committee. “The PROTECT IP Act is a major step to make the Internet safer and protect consumers from the dangers of rogue sites in the online marketplace,” the letter read.

Hours after the bill passed the committee, Wyden put a hold on the bill, just as he did on COICA in 2010.

“I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective,” Wyden said in a statement. “At the expense of legitimate commerce, [the PROTECT IP Act]’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.”