A group of intellectual property professors (around 90 as of this writing) led by Mark Lemley, David S. Levine, and David G. Post have delivered a letter to Congress urging rejection of the PROTECT-IP Act of 2011 (S. 968).
The professors stress that the bill’s drawbacks outweigh its benefits in terms of the way in which it addresses online copyright and trademark infringement. The bill is not constitutionally sound, has the potential to damage the stability and security of the Internet’s addressing system, and flies in the face of the United States’s history of supporting free expression on the Internet. Intellectual property owners currently have an array of tools to fight online infringement; this bill is unnecessary and a true threat to freedom of the Internet.
The bill’s most visible flaw is its unconstitutional restriction of speech. The Supreme Court has rejected prior restraint, which is exactly what this bill would allow were it to go into effect—a judge would be able to shut down websites upon an application by the Attorney General without notice and a proper hearing to the adverse party. The bill would also significantly harm the Internet’s infrastructure. A court’s ability to remove or replace entries from the Internet’s Domain Name System (an act which this bill would authorize) would seriously imperil the principle of domain name universality on which countless Internet applications are based. Finally, the United States has always been a leading proponent of free speech on the Internet. This bill is antithetical to the principle of freedom of expression, as it allows for the removal of content from the Internet regardless of where the content originates or where it is located. For all of these reasons, the professors strongly advise that Congress reject the PROTECT-IP Act of 2011.