WASHINGTON, D.C.—Within hours of its unanimous passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the controversial PROTECT IP Act, aka Son of COICA, met a decidedly more immovable object in the form of Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden (pictured), who put a hold on legislation ostensibly designed to deal decisively with websites in this country and abroad whose only purported purpose is the unauthorized dissemination of copyrighted works. In placing the hold, Wyden cited its threat to "free speech, technological innovation and the very foundations of the Internet."
The bill, which was introduced May 12 by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), contains significant updates to last year’s attempt at similar legislation, the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which was successfully blocked by Wyden. Updates include:
* A narrower definition of an internet site “dedicated to infringing activities”;
* Authorization for the Attorney General to serve an issued court order on a search engine, in addition to payment processors, advertising networks and Internet service providers;
* Authorization for both the Attorney General and rights holders to bring actions against online infringers operating an internet site or domain where the site is “dedicated to infringing activities,” but with remedies limited to eliminating the financial viability of the site, not blocking access;
* Requirement of plaintiffs to attempt to bring an action against the owner or registrant of the domain name used to access an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities” before bringing an action against the domain name itself;
* Protection for domain name registries, registrars, search engines, payment processors, and advertising networks from damages resulting from their voluntary action against an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities,” where that site also “endangers the public health,” by offering controlled or non-controlled prescription medication.
In a statement issued today following his placement of the hold, Wyden explained in detail why he continues to oppose these aggressive bipartisan attempts to protect intellectual property online.
Consistent with Senate Standing Orders and my policy of publishing in the Congressional Record a statement whenever I place a hold on legislation, I am announcing my intention to object to any unanimous consent request to proceed to S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act.
In December of last year I placed a hold on similar legislation, commonly called COICA, because I felt the costs of the legislation far outweighed the benefits. After careful analysis of the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, I am compelled to draw the same conclusion. I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective. At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.
The Internet represents the shipping lane of the 21st century. It is increasingly in America’s economic interest to ensure that the Internet is a viable means for American innovation, commerce, and the advancement of our ideals that empower people all around the world. By ceding control of the Internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the Internet, PIPA represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives. Until the many issues that I and others have raised with this legislation are addressed, I will object to a unanimous consent request to proceed to the legislation.
Unless Wyden voluntarily releases the hold, overcoming it would require the Senate to go through the time-consuming process of cloture, which requires 60 votes for passage. Of course, they can always drop the legislation altogether.