More than 130 companies, business groups and others signed a letter to members of Congress Tuesday urging lawmakers to move legislation that would give law enforcement more tools to crack down on websites that offer pirated content and counterfeit products.
"Legislation to disrupt these efforts is a major step to make the Internet safer and protect consumers from the dangers of buying in the online marketplace," according to the letter signed by such groups and companies as the Association of American Publishers, Ford Motor Co., the Motion Picture Association of America, Reed Elsevier, the Recording Industry Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "IP-intensive industries are a cornerstone of the U.S. economy, employing more than 19 million people and accounting for 60 percent of our exports. Rampant online counterfeiting and piracy presents a clear and present threat that we must do more to address."
The letter praised legislation offered in the last Congress by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., aimed at cracking down on Internet piracy and counterfeiting, particularly on foreign websites.
"We urge you to support bicameral introduction and enactment of carefully balanced rogue sites legislation this year and look forward to working with you in support of that goal," the letter from the companies and groups added.
Steve Tepp with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center said he hoped the "show of support" by the groups and firms who signed the letter would "serve as a further catalyst to congressional action this year."
Leahy's bill was approved on a unanimous vote in November. Leahy is expected to reintroduce the bill again. His committee is holding a hearing on online piracy on Wednesday. Critics of that bill, however, say its provisions that would allow for the seizure of domain names linked to sites that offer pirated content or counterfeit products could stifle free speech and embolden foreign governments that might imitate such efforts to stifle political speech.
Among those scheduled to appear at the Senate Judiciary hearing is Go Daddy Executive Vice President and General Counsel Christine Jones, whose firm is the biggest supplier of Internet domain name registrations. Go Daddy supports efforts to crack down on online piracy and counterfeiting but would like to see "some tweaks" to the bill Leahy offered last year, she said in an interview with Tech Daily Dose.
In particular, Jones said her company would like to see more focus on trying to take down infringing content before law enforcement goes after domain names. She said if intellectual property owners are unable to get action by that route, than law enforcement should have the authority to go after a domain name linked to an infringing site and then if that fails, seek action from the firms that operate domain name registries, which are the databases of all the domain names under a particular Internet address.
"Go after the content, that is where infringement" is happening, Jones said. "The infringement is not in the domain name itself."