The U.S. House of Representatives today introduced H.R. 3261, The Stop Online Piracy Act, a bipartisan bill that would promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. intellectual property.
Eight members joined House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), IP Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) in sponsoring the bill.
The bill includes many of the same measures as two previously introduced Senate bills – the PROTECT-IP Act and S. 978, a bill that makes penalties for illegal streaming the same as penalties for infringement using other mechanisms.
Hundreds of organizations and businesses in the creative community stand behind these efforts and urge both bodies to move the bills forward expeditiously.
For more than 11 million people whose jobs rely in whole or in part on copyright, real enforcement in the digital world is the difference between earning a living and not earning a living. These individuals are friends, neighbors, small businesses and individuals in every community in the United States, working as authors, photographers, artists, journalists, software developers and in many dozens of other creative pursuits.
We have heard personal stories from many of them, including graphic artists, photographers and writers.
One author from Texas whose work is published by a well-known publishing house reports that she has been “fighting piracy daily for two and a half years now.” Her 26 books have been uploaded to “mirror sites, seeded throughout the web with a single-minded dedication that I might admire if it wasn’t aimed at destroying my income. I have an entire file filled with information on various sites, how-to notes, copies of DMCA letters, and a tracking file, as well as a roster of peer-to-peer and file hosting sites I visit each day. On the average, I take down about 125 links per month, but that’s because I check every day.”
The day-to-day effort of tracking and sending notices wherever possible is described by one stamp artist as “a terrible time suck”. The artist points out “I can’t imagine allowing stolen car rings to set up shop [openly and brazenly], but apparently intellectual property rights are fair game for pirates.” These frustrations are another common theme from creators and entrepreneurs whose work is devalued because it happens to be reproducible as computer code, rather than in plastic or metal.
These challenges are made ever worse by the fact that many of the operators of rogue websites are foreign based, ignore DMCA notices, and are untouchable under U.S. law, despite the best efforts of the authors and artists affected.
It is true there is no “cure-all” solution. But legislation like the measure introduced today is critical for at least three reasons.
- It gives law enforcement effective tools to go after the worst of the worst off-shore sites that are profiting from commercial work, to cut off legitimate sources of funding to those sites and make them harder to access;
- It brings copyright laws into the digital age by accounting for evolving technologies used to illegally distribute works - mechanisms like streaming and cyber lockers, which are increasingly taking the place of peer-to-peer networks as the most often used mechanism for facilitating theft;
- It sends a global message that America takes its intellectual property rights seriously and will take steps to defend them.
Artists and creators of all varieties rely on a lawful Internet to get their work to their audiences and to connect with their fans. All of the businesses that rely on thriving legal Internet commerce likewise require a reliable environment in which to operate. Today’s developments in the U.S. House are a positive sign for artists, creators, other businesses and consumers. In short, it is a win-win for America’s economy.