Two key lawmakers are expected to release draft legislation on Thursday that offers an alternative to two controversial bills cracking down on piracy and counterfeiting on foreign websites.
The draft legislation from House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and a similar Senate draft measure from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are aimed at countering a House bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, introduced last month by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas., and a similar bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May known as the Protect IP Act.
House Judiciary is expected to mark up SOPA next week. Both SOPA and the Protect IP Act would cut off access to foreign websites deemed to be dedicated to piracy or counterfeiting. Those bills would allow the attorney general to ask a court to require a service provider to redirect U.S. users away from such sites and require advertisers and payment processors such as PayPal and credit card companies to stop doing business with them.
Both SOPA and Protect IP are strongly supported by a broad coalition of copyright and trademark owners, unions and others that say the rapid growth in infringement on foreign websites is hurting the U.S. economy.
But Issa, Wyden and other critics, including tech companies, venture capitalists and privacy advocates, argue that SOPA and Protect IP are too broad and could do more harm than good.
"Efforts to address online piracy aimed at specific behaviors or parts of the network could have unintended consequences elsewhere - consequences that may undermine the value that digital products and services creates for so many," seven tech groups, including the Information Technology Industry Council and TechAmerica, said in a letter to Smith on Wednesday. They urged the committee to hold off on marking up SOPA and continue to work with stakeholders on finding other ways to crack down infringement on foreign websites.
Issa's draft bill, known as the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, employs a follow-the-money strategy and gives responsibility for implementing the bill to the International Trade Commission instead of the Justice Department.
Issa's draft, obtained by Tech Daily Dose, would allow copyright or trademark owners to file a complaint with the ITC against a foreign website that is infringing their intellectual property.
The draft calls for an expedited process for dealing with such complaints, quicker than the normal process the ITC uses for infringement cases. Under the draft bill, a commission finding could lead to a cease-and-desist order to the infringing website and an order to online advertisers and payment processors to stop doing business with those sites. The draft would authorize the ITC to require those who file complaints against foreign websites to pay a fee to pay for the costs of the process.
Issa is expected to launch a new website, www.keepthewebopen.com, Thursday that will allow users to offer changes to the bill, which will likely be introduced some time before the end of the year. Among those expected to sign on to Issa's bill include Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who also has been an outspoken critic of SOPA and Protect IP.