Congressional Leaders Pledge Bipartisan Support for Copyright Enforcement

Politicians from both sides of the aisle pledged their support for legislation to better enforce copyright protection on Monday

Congressional leaders pledged bipartisan support for legislation to crack down on intellectual property theft and online copyright infringement — crimes that the industry and lawmakers say cost the U.S. economy more than $100 billion a year.

“Protecting American intellectual property on the Internet is not uniquely an industry or labor concern. It is not uniquely a Democrat or Republican concern. It is an American concern, and addressing it is crucial to our economic success and job growth,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) stressed another benefit from cracking down on theft: More jobs.

“If we can reduce the impact of IP theft on the U.S. economy, we can not only save jobs, we can gain jobs,” Smith said.

Last fall the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Intellectual Property Rights Center shut down dozens of rogue websites. Other online ventures have stopped illegal sharing in response.

“Congress must act to protect property rights and American jobs by targeting the truly bad actors and their revenue streams, and do so in a way that continues our nation’s commitment to due process and freedom of speech,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) said.

“I intend to deal with this issue aggressively and will consider all ideas and concerns from interested parties,” Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet chair said. “The intellectual property industry is one of the U.S.’s top exporters and threats to the IP industries are threats to our economy that will affect American jobs.”

The Motion Picture Assn. of America thanked lawmakers for recognizing the issue, and pledged the organization’s support.

Last fall Leahy and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, a bill that would have given the Dept. of Justice new power to shut down entire Internet domains if it determined copyright infringement to be "central to the activity of the Internet site or sites accessed through a specific domain name."

The bill also would have required DOJ to maintain a public list of sites they have determined are "dedicated to infringing activities," but for which they have not taken action against yet. Net neutrality and free speech advocates argued that the ambiguous wording of the bill could lead its use against sites that allow users to control content and blogs that use excerpts from media articles under fair use.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee but never received a full vote on the Senate floor.