Intellectual Property

Protecting Americans from Web Scams

December 30, 2011
| Blogs & Op-eds

Just as a 411 operator won’t tell you an unlisted number, DNS can refuse to provide Internet addresses if it chooses. SOPA simply requires ISPs to delist the Internet addresses of foreign sites found by a US court to be dedicated to criminal activities. DNS has had the ability to delist sites since it was designed in 1987, and all widely used DNS services have this capability.

SOPA critics charge that such filtering breaks the Internet, but it does no such thing as long as it’s done sensibly. (Security experts criticized an early version of SOPA, but the amended bill addresses their concerns.) It’s a practical means of protecting consumers from rogue sites that traffic in illegal goods.

Refusing to Answer for Policy Reasons

December 30, 2011
| Blogs & Op-eds

Senior Research Fellow Richard Bennett continues to expand upon the SOPA debate by examining the design of DNS in this blog for The Hill. He recognizes that not everyone likes the idea of using technical measures to reduce the incidence of crime on the Internet; but indicates that Response Policy and anti-spam measures have drawn considerable fire from Internet traditionalists and ardent free speech mavens. It’s unreasonable to claim that these measures are the products of “Internet ignorance” simply because Congress is not over-stocked with members who can describe Secure DNS in exacting detail; they’re consistent with the long-standing design of DNS.

It seems that SOPA’s technical critics may have forgotten a detail or two about this part of the Internet themselves.

Stop Protecting Criminal Behavior: Why the Critics Are Wrong About the Stop Online Piracy Act

Huffington Post
Criticism of SOPA usually fall under four major categories. When compared to the facts, these charges just do not hold up.

Protect-IP and SOPA Acts Will Not 'Break the Internet'

Billboard
Numerous independent analyses, including ITIF's report, have concluded claims PIPA/SOPA will "break the internet" have no merit.

DNS Filtering is an American Innovation

December 14, 2011
| Blogs & Op-eds

Is the DNS blacklisting mechanism included in the PROTECT-IP and SOPA bills contrary the spirit of the Internet and American innovation? A post in The Hill’s "Congress Blog" says it is. But less than a year ago, its main author was singing a different tune. DNS filtering is not only an American innovation, it's Paul Vixie's innovation.

Think Tank: Anti-Piracy Legislation Would Not Lead to Censorship

Reuters
PIPA/SOPA makes no attempt to regulate speech on the internet. An individual’s right to free speech is not a license to infringe on the IP rights of others.

Congress should demonstrate to other nations that combatting online infringement, including by blocking illegal sites, will neither “break the Internet” nor harm free speech.

Policymakers should understand that no bill that targets foreign infringing sites would be acceptable to ideologically-driven advocates, including those who populate Internet standards bodies, regardless of their claims that they also want to reduce piracy. However, other critics have raised reasonable questions about aspects of the legislation, particularly of SOPA. While the countermeasures proposed in PIPA/SOPA that make it more difficult to distribute, locate, and earn revenue from foreign infringing websites should be adopted, policymakers should also listen to the legitimate concerns of stakeholders who make good-faith efforts to improve the legislation, rather than kill it. In particular, policymakers should ensure that the enforcement mechanisms in PIPA/SOPA are targeted, fair, and effective.

PIPA/SOPA: Responding to Critics and Finding a Path Forward

December 5, 2011
| Reports
Online piracy has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry that robs U.S. innovators and artists of just compensation and undermines U.S. competitiveness. This analysis of House and Senate bills to crack down on online piracy explains that narrowly-tailored but aggressive actions should be taken against websites dedicated to infringing activities, especially U.S.-directed foreign sites. It lays out the benefits of having intermediaries in the Internet ecosystem deny would-be pirates use of their services. The report analyzes claims by opponents of the legislation that the bills would "break the Internet" or lead to censorship and finds them unfounded. Specifically, the report responds in detail to opposition about the proposed DNS filtering countermeasure. Finally, it recommends Congress and policymakers should continue to respond to the legitimate concerns of stakeholders who are negotiating in good faith to reduce online piracy, counterfeiting and ensure the legislation is not overly broad or vague.

Intellectual property (IP) infringement on the Internet is not limited to digital content. Counterfeit goods, often of poor quality, are widely available online through retail websites and online auctions. Counterfeiters sell goods such as infant formula or baby shampoo that expose young children to serious health risks. Illegal online pharmacies sell counterfeit prescription and non-prescription drugs to consumers for a variety of health conditions. At best, these drugs may simply be ineffective; at worst, they can be harmful, or even lethal, to consumers. Consumers shopping online may inadvertently purchase counterfeit goods, especially luxury goods such as jewelry, cosmetics, handbags, garments and shoes. Often these products are sold on sites that appear legitimate, charge reasonable prices, and may even link to the customer service of the brand owner. A 2011 study found that traffic to forty-eight sites selling counterfeit goods averaged more than 240,000 visits per day or more than 87 million visits per year. As Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton put it, “Intellectual property violations have become big-time international crime. We’ve got to focus and do something about it.”

Against this backdrop, in September 2010, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced S. 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), one of the first serious efforts by Congress in recent years to crack down on online piracy and counterfeiting. A modified version of COICA was introduced in 2011 in S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act or PIPA). Most recently, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and his co-sponsors introduced H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While these bills have important differences, many of their enforcement mechanisms are the same. In particular, the legislation enables Internet intermediaries, including Internet service providers (ISPs), payment processors (e.g. credit card companies), ad networks, search engines, domain registrars, and domain registries to take action against websites that are dedicated to infringing activities, in particular foreign sites that are otherwise outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement and current remedies.

PIPA/SOPA has generated considerable controversy, much of it driven by false or misleading information. Much of this has been driven by “Internet exceptionalists.” For these advocates, the Internet is inherently different from the offline world and should be off-limits to the societal rules that a democratically-elected government wants to impose on it. Any attempt to impose limitations on illegal activities is decried as the first step to totalitarian repression. For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), using some especially over-the-top language, calls SOPA “censorship,” a “massive piece of job-killing Internet regulation,” and claims it will “break the Internet.” As we will show in this report, these claims are completely false.

Some criticism of PIPA/SOPA is driven by individuals and interests groups who oppose the current state of U.S. copyright law. These opponents believe (or hope) that the Internet Age marks the end of intellectual property rights. They generally believe U.S. copyright laws are too expansive and do not want to see them enforced. They bring criticism against PIPA/SOPA in the hopes of blunting the effects of policies they do not like.

Other opponents of PIPA/SOPA are simply willfully blind to the current severity of the problem of online piracy and counterfeiting. For example, Andreessen et al. argue that “the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] gives rights-holders a way to take down specific infringing content, and it is working well.” Such a claim is clearly false given the level of piracy today and the fact that the DMCA only applies to domestic sites and users. For the most part, this report will not address claims made by those who refuse to recognize even basic facts, such as that online piracy is a substantial problem that hurts the U.S. economy. The interested reader can find this information in other reports.

Other critics make claims about the effects of PIPA/SOPA that are simply inaccurate. Some Internet engineers claim that the measures enabled by the legislation would “break the Internet” in general or its domain name system in particular. Network engineers frequently claim that certain technologies “break” the Internet in whole or in part. These statements do not mean that the Internet itself will cease to work; they are complaints about deviations from certain narrow engineering principles, protocols, or standards that may not be widely used or even widely understood. This does not necessarily translate into any meaningful implications for the average user. For example, many Internet engineers have insisted that network address translation (NAT), a technology used in the routers that provide Internet connectivity to millions of homes and businesses, breaks the Internet by violating core principles such as the end-to-end principle and the use of globally unique identifiers. According to this critique, NAT also breaks specific protocols such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) used for voice-over-IP (VOIP) calling. Yet the Internet continues to thrive and users still make VOIP calls. 

Policymakers should understand that no bill that targets foreign infringing sites would be acceptable to ideologically-driven advocates, including those who populate Internet standards bodies, regardless of their claims that they also want to reduce piracy. However, other critics have raised reasonable questions about aspects of the legislation, particularly of SOPA. While the countermeasures proposed in PIPA/SOPA that make it more difficult to distribute, locate, and earn revenue from foreign infringing websites should be adopted, policymakers should also listen to the legitimate concerns of stakeholders who make good-faith efforts to improve the legislation, rather than kill it. In particular, policymakers should ensure that the enforcement mechanisms in PIPA/SOPA are targeted, fair, and effective. Finding a reasonable solution to the problem of online piracy and counterfeiting is too important to let hysterical, ideological posturing and threats influence public policy. It is time for policymakers to take a deep breath and consider this issue on the basis of facts and rational argumentation.

In summary, Congress should:

  • Recognize that online piracy and counterfeiting are serious problems in need of new policy solutions;
  • Create new countermeasures that narrowly but aggressively target websites clearly dedicated to infringing activities, especially U.S.-directed foreign sites;
  • Encourage and enable intermediaries in the Internet ecosystem to disallow the use of their services to distribute, locate, and earn revenue from online infringement;
  • Demonstrate to other nations that combatting online infringement, including by blocking illegal sites, will neither “break the Internet” nor harm free speech; and
  • Take into account the concerns of stakeholders who are negotiating in good faith to reduce online infringement, such as by ensuring that legislation is not overly broad or vague.

The purpose of this report is threefold: 1) to respond to the inaccurate claims that have been made about PIPA/SOPA by opponents of the legislation, particularly with regards to DNS filtering; 2) to offer an assessment of legitimate areas of concern that policymakers should address before proceeding with legislation; and 3) to propose an alternative solution to the most controversial aspect of SOPA.

UK and U.S. IP Enforcement: Views from the Top

November 7, 2011 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Finnegan Law Offices
901 New York Avenue NW
Suite 10A
Washington
DC
20001

In today's economy, few assets are more valuable than intellectual property. Tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and national competitiveness are on the line. ITIF, working with the British Embassy, is pleased to host two of the world's chief IP officials, David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the U.S. Read more »

UK and U.S. IP Enforcement: Views from the Top

November 7, 2011
In today's economy, few assets are more valuable than intellectual property.

In today's economy, few assets are more valuable than intellectual property. Tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and national competitiveness are on the line. ITIF, working with the British Embassy, is pleased to host two of the world's chief IP officials, David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and John Alty, Chief Executive of the United Kingdom's Intellectual Property Office, for a rare joint appearance.

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