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Lawmakers release draft alternative to Stop Online Piracy Act

Wyden and Issa ask Web users to comment on their OPEN Act proposal

By Grant Gross
December 8, 2011 03:11 PM ET

IDG News Service - Two U.S. lawmakers have released an alternative proposal to two controversial bills intended to crack down on online copyright infringement, and they're asking the Internet community to comment on and suggest changes to the draft bill.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a draft version of the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act on Thursday and posted a copy at KeeptheWebOpen.com.

The draft, based on a proposal endorsed by three other senators and six other representatives earlier this month, would expand the U.S. International Trade Commission's authority to investigate intellectual-property infringement complaints.

OPEN is an alternative to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two bills introduced in Congress that would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright owners to seek court orders targeting websites they accuse of infringing copyright.

Opponents of SOPA and PIPA say the legislation lacks strong due-process protections for website owners, and say SOPA is broad enough to allow copyright holders to target U.S. websites with user-generated content, such as YouTube and Twitter.

The new proposal, by using the ITC's intellectual property (IP) enforcement expertise, will make it possible "to go after legitimate cases of IP abuse without doing irreparable harm to the Internet," Wyden said in a statement.

"It is our hope that proponents of other approaches won't just dismiss our proposal, but will instead take this opportunity to engage us on the substance," he added. "Yes, IP infringement is a problem, but the Internet has become such an important part of our economy and our way of life that it is essential for us to get the policies that shape its future right."

At KeeptheWebOpen.com, visitors are able to submit comments, suggest edits and ask questions about the legislation. Visitor comments will provide "invaluable" feedback as the lawmakers fine-tune the legislation, the lawmakers said in a press release.

The Copyright Alliance and the Motion Picture Association of America criticized the OPEN Act, saying it would be ineffective against widespread copyright infringement on foreign websites. The MPAA praised Wyden and Issa for recognizing a need for new enforcement tools, but said the proposal "goes easy on online piracy and counterfeiting."

Moving the venue of copyright complaints from courts to the ITC "places copyright holders at a disadvantage and allows companies profiting from online piracy to advocate for foreign rogue websites against rightful American copyright holders," Michael O'Leary, the MPAA's senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs, said in a statement. "It even allows notification to some of these companies if they want to help advocate for rogue websites."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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