Friday, October 28, 2011

CEA Calls On House To Hold Off On Protect IP Bill

CEA Calls On House To Hold Off On Protect IP Bill

Ask that a House bill not be introduced until stakeholders included in further discussions

By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/24/2011 2:19:31 PM

Consumer electronics companies are pushing back hard against recent movement on Capitol Hill on the Protect IP Legislation that takes aim at offshore Websites pirating digital content. That came after a meeting last Friday between stakeholders and committee staffers.

There is already a Senate bill, and a House version could be introduced anytime. In fact, The Consumer Electronics Association, NetCoalition and the Computer and Communications Industry Association got together to send letters to every member of Congress Monday, with a separate letter to a quartet of representatives atop the relevant committees and subcommittees, suggesting a House bill could be forthcoming as soon as Tuesday (Oct. 25).

In the letters, the tech companies said that they still had issues with the "timing and the substance" and asked that a House bill not be introduced until there can be more discussions, with stakeholders included in discussions on any draft before it is introduced to avoid any "undue collateral damage."

They pointed to concerns of Tea Party members, venture capitalists and Internet security companies about the Senate legislation.

Tea Party Chair Michele Bachmann was among those who have expressed strong reservations.

On the other side of the issue, and also in the wake of movement on a bill they support, content creators including NBCU last week launched a new campaign to get rank and file members of the creative community to take a personal interest in combating digital content theft.

The Senate version (S.968) was motor manned to Senate Judiciary Committee passage last May by author and Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). It has yet to get a vote in the full Senate due to a hold on the bill reportedly placed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The bill would empower the Attorney General or a copyright owner to sue content-infringing Websites registered under a nondomestic domain name.

It is supported by major studios, unions, broadcasters and cable operators, but fair use fans still have issues with what they say are overbroad powers that could send the wrong signal to foreign governments.

There has been renewed attention on the bill in recent weeks. CEA last week called on House leaders to convene stakeholder discussions to talk about the concerns of its members and others about the Senate bill -- there is talk that a similar bill will be introduced in the House. The law's critics have called it overbroad, ripe for abuse and bad international precedent.

CEA says the bill -- the House version is expected to be very similar -- "will constrain economic growth and threaten a vital sector of the U.S. economy and a major source of global competitiveness."

In addition to writing every member of Congress, the groups sent a separate letter to PRO-IP bill backers Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee; Bob Goodlatte, chair of the intellectual property subcommittee; John Conyers, ranking member of the Judiciary and Mel Watt, ranking member of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee.

The same groups wrote the same legislators Oct. 12 arguing that the bill was ripe for abuse, could chill investment and even quoted Tea Party backers as saying human rights activists are "terrified" that the act will "provide comfort to totalitarian regimes that seek ever more control over Internet users in their own countries."
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