The United States Department of Justice could be shutting down your favorite websites if they violate legislation going to the floors of both the House and Senate in the coming weeks.
Senators will conduct a roll call vote on Tues., Jan. 24, for a bill that would give the U.S. Attorney General the power to go after websites involved in infringing activities on the Internet.
The bill titled, “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011” or Protect IP Act (PIPA) is meant to discourage sites dedicated to theft of intellectual property (IP).
The Federal Bureau of Investigation lists intellectual property theft as “robbing people of their ideas, inventions, and creative expressions … everything from trade secrets and proprietary products and parts to movies and music and software,” according to fbi.gov.
Violators of the legislation will receive a notice of the alleged violation from the attorney general’s office followed by a temporary restraining order or other legal actions filed by the court.
Co-author of PIPA, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wishes to protect Americans’ incentive for creating unique works such as movies, music and books.
“These works create jobs, from their production and manufacture to the advertising and sales that support them. To cultivate these new jobs, intellectual property enforcement must keep pace with an ever changing digital world,” wrote Leahy in an op-ed for “The Hill.”
A similar bill was co-authored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) known as the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) to stop foreign websites from stealing copyrighted material.
“According to estimates, IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such,” stated a press release from Rep. Smith’s website dated Dec. 15, 2011.
Facebook, eBay, Google and many other top Internet companies are opposed to both bills, according to net-coalition.com. Top Internet sites are calling these pieces of legislation “too much.”
“There’s no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled the Web to thrive, creating millions of U.S. jobs,” stated Google’s online petition against both bills.
“The most effective way to shut down pirate websites is through targeted legislation that cuts off their funding,” read the statement on google.com.
The bill has also met opposition from both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) who claim that PIPA goes too far and will “do a tremendous amount of damage to the architecture of the Internet.”
“There are people that sell tainted Viagra, fake Rolexes or movies they don’t own and as far as I’m concerned you ought to handcuff them. But these bills go way beyond that,” Wyden said in an interview on C-SPAN.
Wyden argues that the legislation turns websites into “web-cops” by forcing websites to monitor the vast amount of data that is used daily.
Wyden, along with Issa, proposed an alternative solution through the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act that focuses on international commerce.
In a radio interview, Issa expressed that his bill was not only open because it frees up the internet from obtrusive government regulation, but it is the first bill to be open to the public for comments during the drafting phase of the legislation.
“We were able to leverage technology that makes the Open bill the first completely open bill for people to … give us their comments. They can write it in very legal language or they can make it less legal,” Issa said.
“The Internet gives you an opportunity to be heard, to try new ideas and to dream … that’s why I want to keep the web OPEN,” Wyden said.