Controversial 'PROTECT IP' bill draws new criticism & opposition

Senator Patrick Leahy's "PROTECT IP" bill (.pdf) alleged it would "prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property." Several critics, however, saw it more as a thinly-veiled censorship tool to be wielded by the government whenever corporations came knocking.

Erik Schmidt, Google executive chairman, voiced concerns about the bill's implications during a London conference in May. The proposal even met stiff resistance from within the senate itself. And now a group of like-minded professors specializing in Internet and IP law has announced that its opposition to the bill numbers over 90 strong - a number it insists will continue to grow.

A letter addressed to Congress and penned by professors Mark Lemley (Stanford Law School), David S. Levine (Elon University School of Law) and David G. Post (Temple University School of Law) argues that "PROTECT IP" is the wrong way to go about solving the complex issue of internet-based piracy and copyright theft.

"Although the problems the Act attempts to address - online copyright and trademark infringement - are serious ones presenting new and difficult enforcement challenges, the approach taken in the Act has grave constitutional infirmities, potentially dangerous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet's addressing system, and will undermine United States foreign policy and strong support of free expression on the Internet around the world," reads the letter.

The group also warned that if passed, the bill would allow courts to order "the equivalent of an Internet death penalty" (i.e. complete removal by ISPs) on sites prior to a proper ruling on their alleged illegality.

Post, who also contributes at the intellectual property and constitutional law blog The Volokh Conspiracy along with several other professionals, labeled the bill "a serious assault" on the Internet's very foundation. The professor was loathe to speculate on the possibility of PROTECT IP actually passing, but said people who don't want to see the Internet irreparably changed should "rally in opposition." (via TechDirt)

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