PROTECT IP Act may be open to some Reasonable Amendments

In response to concerted objections to aspects of the PROTECT IP Act, legislation sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced by radio and press release that the sponsors may eliminate a controversial provision requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to interfere with the Domain Name System as a technique to prevent consumer access to foreign websites deemed “rogue” or havens for pirated goods.

According to the press release, the Senate is set to hold a procedural vote January 24, 2012. With over 40 co-sponsors of the bill, the position may face internal opposition, but Senator Leahy remains an influential voice on such topics and in the Senate.

According to the press release:

The PROTECT IP Act provides new tools for law enforcement to combat rogue websites that operate outside our borders but target American consumers with stolen American property and counterfeits.  One of those tools enables law enforcement to secure a court order asking Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to use the Domain Name System to prevent consumer access to foreign rogue websites.  This provision was drafted in response to concerns that law enforcement has remedies it can take against domestic websites, but does not currently have the power to stop foreign rogue websites.  I worked closely with the ISPs in drafting this provision to ensure they were comfortable with how it would work, and I appreciate their support. …

I and the bill’s cosponsors have continued to hear concerns about the Domain Name provision from engineers, human rights groups, and others.  …  I remain confident that the ISPs – including the cable industry, which is the largest association of ISPs – would not support the legislation if its enactment created the problems that opponents of this provision suggest.  Nonetheless, this is in fact a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it.

Though described as a balanced bill, the legislation and SOPA – the even more extreme House legislation – have split the intellectual property industries, with strong support from many in the creative community and nearly unanimous opposition from the tech industries. Even within the media industries, concerns run high and I have spoken to a number of publishers and media representatives who feel that the proposals will do more harm than good.

A hearing on SOPA designed to allow critics of the legislation to be heard is now scheduled for January 18th.

Senator Leahy’s announcement may be the first step towards slowing an otherwise out-of-control legislative disaster.

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