Many of the lawmakers who helped to derail antipiracy legislation by saying it would hamper online innovation want the Obama administration to turn its attention to protecting Internet freedoms abroad.
“We’ve got countries all over world that are engaging in very repressive action in regard to Internet access,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said on Thursday during remarks at the Computer and Communications Industry Association’s annual public-policy summit.
Lofgren and others pointed to efforts by some countries, such as Vietnam, to require U.S. companies that want to provide social networking or other online services to place servers locally and follow local censorship laws. Lofgren said she plans to reintroduce a bill that would require the U.S. government to fight such policies.
Lofgren helped lead efforts in the House Judiciary Committee to oppose the controversial antipiracy bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, which aimed to curb piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. content and goods on foreign websites. The bill and a similar Senate measure known as the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, were sidelined in January after a major lobbying effort by tech companies, Internet activists, and others.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who led efforts to block PIPA, said he would like to see the administration push for provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements that would protect the free flow of goods and content over the Internet. The TPP, which the United States is negotiating with several countries, is aimed at improving trade and investment in the Pacific Rim. Wyden said he would like to see the addition of liability protections for Internet service providers and websites similar to those included in such U.S. laws as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
“A special priority for me in these upcoming trade agreements is to put in place the kind of global-trade disciplines that will keep the Web open worldwide, to make sure regimes cannot discriminate against American digital content,” Wyden said. He added that without such protections, tech companies and others could see the “victories we won in the U.S. unravel in the global marketplace.”
Both White House and USTR officials agreed with the need to promote such policies in trade agreements. “The discussions at (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) are putting particular emphasis on making sure that we avoid specific data-localization requirements, which would clearly be a major problem for many of the Internet platforms and the cloud services being offered today,” White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Danny Weitzner said.
But some industry officials have voiced concern about the intellectual-property protections that could be included in TPP and with the secrecy surrounding the negotiations over the agreement. Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis tried assuaging such concerns, particularly when it comes to the intellectual-property provisions.
“We also have been working hard to ensure we strike the right balance with respect to copyright protection with having a high standard for copyright protection while at the same time recognizing that there are legitimate exceptions to that, such as fair use,” he said.