Stephen C. Webster
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate are readying a draft proposal that would provide an alternative to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act.
Instead of using the courts to force search engines and ISPs to block websites accused of copyright infringement, as SOPA and Protect IP would, the alternative suggests simply cutting them off from all sources of funding, just like the banks did to WikiLeaks.
The lawmakers would accomplish this by regulating illegal downloads as a matter of international commerce.
Doing so, the group of lawmakers hope to see the International Trade Commission (ITC) take charge of combating piracy, instead of judges. The ITC would be tasked with reviewing claims of online infringement against foreign website owners, ordering them cut off from funding if the claims prove true.
It would also set up a rapid-response mechanism for temporary disconnections from funding if an imminent harm can be demonstrated by a copyright holder, such as broadcasters who air live events that are being illegally streamed online.
“We think this is the correct way to approach policy,” Jennifer Hoelzer, deputy chief of staff to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), told Raw Story. “This really is an international trade issue. If someone downloads a movie off a foreign website, it’s similar to importing a DVD from a foreign company.”
And it’s not just Democrats who believe this route is better than the current piracy proposals in Congress: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, feels the same way.
“As a former tech entrepreneur and patent holder, I know that innovation depends on strong intellectual property rights and robust enforcement tools,” Issa explained in a prepared statement.
“SOPA, however, goes far beyond what is necessary to protect the rights of intellectual property owners from foreign rogue sites. It would put tremendous new regulatory and monitoring burdens on legitimate commerce in the digital space, leave the internet less secure and ultimately handicaps the policies that have allowed digital job creators to flourish.”
He called the group’s draft proposal for an alternative to stopping piracy, “a smarter solution that targets the actual criminals… by cutting off their funding like WikiLeaks.”
That’s a tactic which has been frightfully effective: since Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, Western Union and other financial institutions began refusing to deliver funds donated to WikiLeaks, the site has stopped publishing more leaks in order to focus on their continued survival as an organization.