November 3, 2011
Thank you for contacting me. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the PROTECT IP Act.
The Internet has spawned unprecedented opportunities for innovation, job creation, economic growth, and global competition. Unfortunately, the Internet also produced greater opportunities for individuals to illegally distribute things like copyrighted movies and television programs, as well as to sell counterfeit trademarked goods or patented products. The impact of copyright piracy and sale of counterfeit goods imposes a significant cost. It hurts consumers and harms legitimate businesses and their workers.
While copyright, trademark, and patent laws all apply online, enforcement of the laws is particularly difficult, especially when a perpetrator is abroad. In recent years, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I am not a member of, has attempted to address the enforcement challenges.
This Congress, Senator Leahy introduced the PROTECT IP Act, which is designed to improve enforcement of "pirate" websites which facilitate the unauthorized distribution of protected content or counterfeit goods. The bill would give the Justice Department the authority to seek a cease and desist order against "rogue" websites that are primarily "dedicated to infringing activities."
Under the bill, once the court issues an order, it could then be served on financial transaction providers, Internet service providers, Internet advertising services providers, and location information providers to require them to stop financial transactions with the rogue site and stop linking to it. Also search engines-such as Google-would be ordered to remove or disable access to the Internet site.
In May, the bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because I am not a member of that Committee, I have not yet had an opportunity to review the legislation in detail. However, as I evaluate the legislation, there are extremely important free speech issues that must be considered. In particular, it will be critical to me that the bill properly balances the need for vigorous enforcement of our intellectual property laws with the important principle of a free and open Internet.
Again, thank you for your input on this matter. Should this legislation come before the full Senate, I will certainly keep your views in mind. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future with any questions or concerns you may have.
United States Senator