Protect IP Act: Will It Pass?

May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Senate Judiciary Committee is voting on the Protect IP Act today, but will it pass? Outlined in the latest FANIF blog post, Senator Patrick Leahy reintroduced Protect IP about two weeks ago. Leahy is confident the bill will pass as AdWeek reports 12 of the committee’s 18 members are co-sponsors of the legislation.

Supporters of the bill include Microsoft, whose counsel Brad Smith, speaks out about their support of the potential new law on their blog:

“Microsoft is a company built on innovation and its protection through intellectual property rights, and we are committed to helping ensure that copyright is respected in the online environment. We look forward to working with others as this bill advances toward enactment.”

Since the beginning of the reinstated bill, Google has been very vocal about not backing the legislation. Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, spoke out saying the bill could set a “disastrous precedent” for freedom of speech. “I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems,” he said. “So, ‘let’s whack off the DNS’ (domain name systems). Okay, that seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent because now another country will say ‘I don’t like free speech so I’ll whack off all those DNSs’ – that country would be China.

Twitter is a buzz about the bill tweeting with hashtag #ProtectIP:

“@UnderBill Censorship: the slipperiest slope? #protectip
“@marauderz I feel that Google is contesting the #protectip act because it can endanger Google Music.”
“@FashionCloture How will Google’s opposition affect #ProtectIP Act?
“@PRGPatentLaw@neverfakes @FashionCloture People seem to be nervous about any government authority to shut down websites, even sites with illegal content.”
“@SimoneBtrfly It’s fab the amount of support they’re getting!”

We are interested in the outcome of the vote today and its opposition’s efforts to stop the legislation.


Say Hello To The “PROTECT IP” Act

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Last week Senator Leahy introduced his revision to the controversial Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). The bill now stands in its new form, the PROTECT IP Act, short for “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property.” According to, “under the new proposal, search engines, internet providers, credit card companies, and ad networks would all have cut off access to foreign “rogue sites”– and such court orders would not be limited to the government. Private rightsholders could go to court and target foreign domains, too.”

What we are most particularly interested in is the effect on search engines, such as our previous discussions surrounding Google AdWords. The PROTECT IP Act  “responds to concerns raised that search engines are part of the ecosystem that directs Internet user traffic and therefore should be part of the solution.” We agree, Google must help in being part of the solution.

Some key points of the PROTECT IP Act via Wired:

  • The bill is an attempt to deal with foreign sites which can be difficult for US enforcement to reach.
  • It does provide a more limited definition of sites “dedicated to infringing activities.”
  • Ad networks and payment processors will be protected if they “voluntarily cease doing business with infringing websites, outside of any court ordered action.”
  • Copyright and trademark holders are allowed to seek court orders directly, though these orders would only apply to payment processors and advertising networks (not to ISPs or search engines).
  • A search engine can simply cut off advertising for that reason and be immunized under the law.
  • Encourages everyone—domain name registries, search engines, payment processors, and ad networks—to cut off access to infringing sites that “endanger the public health.” That is, online pharmacies (which are often hotbeds of counterfeiting).

What are your thoughts on the new bill? Do you think it will further the government’s attempts to take down foreign rouge websites selling counterfeits?

The Backlash Against Fining New Yorkers

May 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

New York City has been very vocal about the new bill introduced by Councilwoman Margaret Chin that could fine shoppers up to $1,000 if they are caught buying a fake. The bill even includes possible jail time. Although there has been some backlash from the public, The Huffington Post reported that Chin has no intention of backing down. The idea behind the bill was to stop the demand for counterfeit designer goods, but many feel it is wrong to punish consumers. amNY also ran an article about how the bill has potentially started a “class war.” One man was quoted saying, “People who can’t afford high-status items are made to feel inferior, and no one wants to feel bad.”

We have seen a law like this before that has been put into place successfully. France is known for its zero tolerance law against fakes, fining violators up to €300,000 and threatening imprisonment. Here are examples of a few advertisements that the French Customs and Comité Colbert have put together to warn consumers about what they are in for if they buy a fake:

Our followers on Facebook and Twitter have also been speaking about the issue. Here is what they had to say:

Rashida M. – “I think it’s better to attack the people manufacturing the goods rather than the buyers some may not be aware of the goods are fraudulent… Seems un american to me…”

Erin S. – “We need more of that everywhere. I see so many fakes being carried around by women, it’s simply awful.”

@intetvalentos – “It’s not really the buyers that we should blame, it’s those people who create the demand for fake stuff. As long as it’s available in the market, people will buy it.”

@BAFFLEDblog “Stealing is stealing & infringing on someone’s rights is never OK. Fashion or not-there must be punishments to deter all crimes”

What are your thoughts on the issue?

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