Think Tank addresses anti-piracy critics

By Colin Mann

A Washington, DC, technology innovation think tank has released a study refuting claims that Congress’s efforts against online piracy would “break the Internet” and usher in censorship, suggesting these are “completely unfounded and without merit”.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study addresses criticism of the proposed PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. Both would give the Justice Department authority to shut down rogue offshore websites offering goods such as pirated music and movies to bogus pharmaceuticals via the Internet.
Critics suggest that filtering of domain names that would be brought in under the proposed legislation would be tantamount to the “first American internet censorship system” that could impede innovation and restrict free and open communications on the web.
“It is not the tool of DNS blocking that is at issue, but the legal regime in which the tool is allowed to be used,” the study says. “Some of these opponents of PIPA/SOPA are more interested in protecting access to free illegal content than they are in protecting free speech. Yet aside from these bold claims, critics have done little to show how enforcing IP rights violates any American’s First Amendment rights.”
“An individual’s right to free speech is not a license to infringe on the IP rights of others. The freedom of speech does not give Internet users the right to steal digital content,” argues the study.
“Finding a reasonable solution to the problem of online piracy and counterfeiting is too important to let hysterical, ideological posturing and threats influence public policy,” concludes the study. “It is time for policymakers to take a deep breath and consider this issue on the basis of facts and rational argumentation.”
It recommends that Congress should:

  • Recognise that online piracy and counterfeiting are serious problems in need of new policy solutions;
  • Create new countermeasures that narrowly but aggressively target websites clearly dedicated to infringing activities, especially US-directed foreign sites;
  • Encourage and enable intermediaries in the Internet ecosystem to disallow the use of their services to distribute, locate, and earn revenue from online infringement;
  • Demonstrate to other nations that combating online infringement, including by blocking illegal sites, will neither “break the Internet” nor harm free speech; and
  • Take into account the concerns of stakeholders who are negotiating in good faith to reduce online infringement, such as by ensuring that legislation is not overly broad or vague.