Building on existing law is a better way to solve problems created by the fast-moving digital revolution than legislative experimentation. SOPA and Protect-IP would radically alter the structure of the Internet and gut intellectual property laws that have proven vital to the digital revolution. Instead, OPEN simply and sensibly extends long-standing and effective mechanisms for dealing with illegal or unfair foreign trade. The bill does so by giving limited new power to the International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency that has handled precisely these kinds of issues for almost 100 years. It also builds in significant procedural safeguards to ensure the new law is not accidentally or intentionally abused to squash start-ups and innocent websites.
If “rogue” foreign sites are really the problem, the U.S. should use existing trade law—USTR, WTO, WIPO, the Berne Convention, etc.—to force our trading partners to abide by their treaty obligations and enforce their own laws against counterfeiting and piracy. This bill does more, empowering the International Trade Commission to cut off the flow of money to sites that are otherwise difficult for U.S. civil and criminal laws to reach. The expedited complaint process also makes sense given the speed with which global commerce—good as well as bad—takes place in the information economy.
Members of Congress from both parties who sponsor OPEN are to be commended.
Downes is available for comment at [email protected] His prior work on this issue includes:
"The Revolt Against Congress’s New Internet Piracy Proposals" (Forbes)
"Debating Congressional Anti-Piracy Legislation: What Do PROTECT IP and SOPA Mean For The Internet?" (Congressional Internet Caucus briefing)
"Hollywood's latest effort to turn back time" (CNET)
"Five Essential Changes to Protect IP" (CNET)
"Why Internet Content Wars will Never End" (Forbes)
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