Jul 052011

Authors of the letter, Professors Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post.

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.


  11 Responses to “Law Professors Urge Rejection of the PROTECT-IP Act (S.968)”

  1. The professors’ concept of “free speech” seems to put the greatest emphasis on “free.” Yet it’s unlikely, apart from the academic maxim to publish or perish, that the books they write are written without compensation, that they make the contents available online at no cost, or that they would consider the theft of “Intellectual Property in the New Technological Age” or “In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace” from a store bookshelf to be an act of constitutionally permitted speech.

    There are numerous provisions in the PROTECT IP Act requiring that evidence of infringement has to exist before action can be taken, so prior restraint is an invalid complaint. Other limitations protect online entities that do not intentionally provide access to infringed content by US residents and those that take action to prevent individual users from distributing copyrighted material.

    Whether copyrighted material is stolen physically or digitally, it is still theft, and modern technology — from copying machines to scanners to character recognition software to universal file formats to audio and video capture and conversion programs to Internet distribution — is simply a new set of tools for a practice that judicial systems around the world would classify as larceny.

    • You can’t be convicted of any other type of larceny without due process.

    • Yes it is theft, but the theft of free speech and free expression would be much more costly.

      Companies will just have to invent a better system to protect there property.

      Let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s big corporations that own rights that want to get paid.

      Many bloggers (authors) offer there material online “free” of charge all the time.

      I would like to get paid by the mobile carriers that make profits off our public owned network, yet pour billions into lobbing Washington for less regulation.

      Vote “no” to this bill.

  2. The problem with the Protect IP act is the collateral damage that will occur with it. When the RIAA and MPAA becoming increasingly oversensitive over the issue of copyright protecting, and ignoring the concept of Fair Use, it will eventually end with the casual user going to jail for minor offenses. Imagine sending a mother to jail because there child was dancing or singing to a song they thought was cute, or sending someone to jail because they happened to have a television program on in the background. It sounds ridiculous, but the industries have already filed lawsuits and cease-and-desist orders over this very thing.

  3. Thanks, law professors, for denouncing S.968, dubbed “the Internet censorship bill.” As one who has been illegally censored for several years, I know how tragic it will be for all Americans when this or another Internet censorship bill is passed by Congress, which is supposed to be barred from passing any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. I posted videos of real-time censorship at YouTube channel JKEMPP703, and write about the things the cybercensorship team does to squash human and civil rights advocacy in my articles at FreeSpeakBlog.blogspot.com and MaryLovesJustice.blogspot.com – Just Google “Mary Neal Censorship” for some of the articles and videos. The offensive things that S.968 allows the government to do have been covertly done to me and captured on hundreds of videos: redirected links, controlled browsing, and web pages deleted from the Internet. Primarily, my censorship is to hide THE COCHRAN FIRM FRAUD (Google that). Please open this link for video proof: SIX VIDEOS PROVE MARY NEAL’S CENSORSHIP –
    http://freespeakblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/four-mary-neal-censorship-videos.html – Thanks for supporting net freedom.

  4. I am one who also believe the Internet needs government regulation in America (very serious government action in France with new anti-piracy law called HADOPI starting to be officially applied for example). Eric F. Vermote illegally used P2P in Maryland during 2003-2004 (bootlegs & audio files for his car). This man with a IT degree works for NASA & the University of Maryland but went to jail for automobile theft in Florida… he is definitely not at all scrupulous with music too obviously and filed a defamation legal suit in France against me in July 2009 stipulating he never got involved in on-line piracy because he is a manipulative liar & because the case involved never got officially substantiated or couldn’t ever be substantiated; my point is that if the Internet had been better regulated by the US government Eric F. Vermote would not have had the opportunity to lie against me and pretend what I accused him of (on-line piracy) is frivolous. On-line piracy cases almost absolutely never get substantiated unfortunately! Damien Bizeau – Classical Music, France.

  5. Passing this bill into law will be a dark day for the principles of freedom of expression and the whole ‘innocent until proven guilty’ thing. I don’t believe US sites should be allowed to offer copyrighted material without permission, but giving a Judge the ability to shut down a site, or change it’s domain name information WITHOUT ANY HEARING or trial is antithetical to the concept of rule of law and all the values Americans hold dear. Do you seriously want to make it easier for the recording and motion picture industry to make the courts follow their whims and shut down sites just because the Recording/Film industry has a complaint? These are the same people (RIAAA) who even today on their website claim [despite US courts all the way up to the supreme court never ruling in agreement with this belief of theirs] that it is illegal to make a digital copy of a CD you legally own, even if your only intent in making the digital copy is for PERSONAL use – e.g. so you can play it on your computer or iPod. IF this bill is passed, these are the people/organization who will be making complaints to the Justice department to get websites shut down everytime they think they see any copyright infringement. And if a judge agrees, your site will be shut down with no advance warning, no hearing, no chance to defend yourself or your site, and no direct mechanism for appeal and getting the judge’s ruling reversed.

  6. Profit driven entertainment corporations are now writing more legislation that we must follow?
    At some point, in their perpetual search for more margin, they will, in their current structures, exhaust every single resource, until there is nothing left to consume, except the people themselves.

    I don’t ‘steal’ any data. I do purchase music and movies. Although, if this passes, I will cease to do so. I will not pay the fascists one cent. There is only one vote that gets reliably counted in the US today. That vote is one we all make everyday, and is cast when you spend a dollar. Vote well.

  7. I am sure that University of Maryland and NASA scientist Eric F. Vermote didn’t at all appreciate Megaupload’s seizure. Very nice and cool anti piracy “Hadopi” law progress in France – in French: “c’est très “surprenant” tous les web posts laissés comme cela partout sur Internet par des Pseudos Totallement Anonymes comme le votre sur le sujet de piratage… Megaupload = domaine purement et simplement bloqué par le U. S District Court sur décision de grand jury fédéral américain (par opérations du F.B.I). Je m’y attendais depuis très longtemps en ce qui me concerne (lire tous mes web posts en anglais et français); tout cela est fort intéressant pour les créateurs à mon avis : internautes mal avertis contre la HADOPI qu’en pensez-vous maintenant ? Toujours aussi fiers ?

    Voici les graves raisons officielles de la fermeture de Megaupload :

    – violation criminelle de droits d’auteurs
    – complot de racket
    – conspiration de violation de droits d’auteurs
    – association de malfaiteurs en blanchiment d’argent.