Setting the record straight on the Protect IP Act
There have been a lot of stories in the news the past few weeks about two bills that Senator Coons have cosponsored – the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) and a bill introduced by Senator Klobuchar (S. 978) – to provide felony penalties for those who illegally consume copyrighted material. Unfortunately, few of them have focused on how these bills will help protect American jobs and strengthen enforcement of copyright and trademark.
Instead, a slew of misinformation about Senator Klobuchar’s bill has led many to believe – erroneously – that it would make posting certain content online, on sites such as YouTube, illegal. Other reports claim that the PROTECT IP Act will legalize online censorship of political, artistic, or expressive speech. These claims are false, and it’s time to set the record straight.
Senator Klobuchar’s online streaming bill, S. 978, does not criminalize any conduct that is not already illegal. This bill would provide that those who engage in piracy willfully and for profit will be held to the same standards — including potential felony charges — regardless of whether they engage in that piracy by selling bootlegs on the street corner or providing access to the streaming of copyrighted material over the internet. It is a way of strengthening the intellectual property laws we already have, not expanding them to cover new material.
Asked about the bill and the rumors swirling around it, Chris said: “This is a simple bill and it is unfortunate that it has been the subject of so much misinformation. It isn't against the law to use YouTube and it is not our intent to make it so. Anybody who is acting legally today will not be in violation of the law after the bill is passed. All this bill does is provide that online pirates face the same level of deterrence in the law as is currently faced by other intellectual property pirates of all stripes.”
The PROTECT IP Act, which has no criminal provisions in it at all, targets websites that exist for the sole purpose of violating trademark and copyright law by authorizing courts to order U.S. businesses to stop promoting them or doing business with them. Nobody has a First Amendment right to steal another person’s property, and that is the only “speech” that will be impacted by the bill.
When asked to comment about the concerns that some have raised about the bill and censorship, Chris said: “Whenever legislation deals with blocking access to websites, I understand there will be concerns about protecting Internet freedom and the civil liberties of those using online services. I share these concerns, and that’s why I worked to make sure this bill cannot be used against a website – even if it contains some infringing material – unless the only purpose of the website is to infringe.”
It's Congress' duty to protect American innovation and commercial products in the global market. The entertainment industry is an important part of our nation’s economy and creates thousands of American jobs by producing movies, television shows and music that are consumed around the world. The livelihoods of those who work to create copyrighted works are under attack by those who seek to profit illegally by streaming them online to users around the world.
Since coming to the Senate last year, Chris has been an outspoken advocate for protecting American jobs by safeguarding the patented products and copyrighted materials that sustain those jobs. To learn more about his work as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, click here.