Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., pledged once again on Wednesday to block legislation aimed at cracking down on websites that traffic in pirated content and counterfeit goods.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is expected to reintroduce a bill in the next few weeks targeting such websites. Leahy’s bill, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, would have established an expedited process for seizing the domain names of websites primarily focused on distributing pirated content or counterfeit goods.
If the bill “is not modified to address the concerns that all of us in this room have expressed in recent years, I will again do everything in my power to block passage of COICA if and when it comes to the floor of the Senate,” Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness Subcommittee, told a Computer and Communications Industry Association conference.
Wyden and others are particularly concerned about the provision allowing for seizure of Internet domain names, saying it would stifle free speech and innovation. Wyden blocked Leahy’s bill from moving to the Senate floor last fall even though it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote.
“If we are going to enjoy the fruits of innovation, you can’t have one part of the economy, the content industry, using the government as a club to hold back another important part of the economy that is the technology sector,” Wyden said.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee who represents part of Silicon Valley, said that while she believes the legislation will not work, critics need to help develop alternative proposals to combat online piracy. She said she is trying to facilitate discussions between content owners and technology industry representatives.
“There is a need for the technology world to sit down with the content world away from Washington, D.C., to sort out what is workable and what doesn’t destroy our technological future,” Lofgren said.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee, said he is beginning work on a House version of the legislation and is taking a careful look at ways to mitigate concerns raised by Wyden and groups like CCIA.
When asked whether he would include a provision allowing seizure of domain names, Goodlatte said he is concerned about the implications of such a measure but would not rule it out. He said he wanted to see a bill written with the necessary sensitivity to First Amendment rights.
Goodlatte also was asked about whether search engines like Google should be required to do more to fight piracy. He said the legislation could include a provision outlining a more “legislatively defined role” that search engines could play.
Goodlatte said he could not say when he will introduce the bill but that it would be “sooner rather than later.”
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