In a repeat of 2010, when he killed the "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has singlehandedly essentially killed the "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011," or "PROTECT IP" bill, after it passed out of a Senate committee amidst a flurry of industry letters both for and against it.

Committee Passes Bill

The bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), former Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and cosponsored by nine other members, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote

The same day, Wyden announced his intention to hold the bill. Typically, a bill is passed from the committee to the full Senate via a "unanimous consent request," which means everyone agrees to let this happen. However, any Senator can object to the unanimous consent request, putting a halt to the whole process.

What's the Problem?

The target of the bill is purported pirate sites that contain copyrighted content such as music, movies and television programs. Like COICA before it, PROTECT IP would have let the government seize the domain names of sites considered to be pirate sites. However, PROTECT IP went further, by also

  • allowing corporations, as well as the government, to seek such injunctions
  • by limiting the ability of search engines, and even social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to link to sites considered to be infringing
  • by encouraging third-party providers to shut down sites thought to be infringing, without any remedy for such sites, by providing liability protection for such actions

Dueling Letters

The legislation also saw a flurry of competing letters from different parts of the industry, as well as Congress, supporting and opposing the legislation.

A group of approximately 170 organizations, ranging from coalitions to doctors to music publishers, sent a letter supporting the legislation, reading, in part:

The time for action against those who use websites to make illegal profits by stealing the intellectual property (IP) of America’s innovative and creative industries is now. These rogue sites are part of a network of counterfeiting and piracy that a study has found to cost 2.5 million jobs in the G20 economies."