Five simple fixes for the Protect IP Act

For CNET this morning, I offer five crucial corrections to the Protect IP Act, which was passed out of committee in the Senate back in May.

Yesterday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, told a Silicon Valley audience that the House was working on its own version and would introduce it in the next few weeks.

Protect IP would extend efforts to combat copyright infringement and trademark abuse online, especially by websites registered outside the U.S.

Since Goodlatte promised the new bill would be “quite different” from the Senate version, I thought it a good time to get out my red pen and start crossing off the worst mistakes in policy and in drafting in Protect IP.

The full details are in the article, but in brief, here’s what I hope the House does in its version:

  1. Drop provisions that tamper with the DNS system in an effort to block U.S. access to banned sites.
  2. Drop provisions that tamper with search engines, indices, and any other linkage to banned sites.
  3. Remove a private right of action that would allow copyright and trademark holders to obtain court orders banning ad networks and financial transaction processors from doing business with banned sites.
  4. Scale back current enforcement abuses by the Department of Homeland Security under the existing PRO-IP Act of 2008.
  5. Focus the vague and overinclusive definition of the kind of websites that can be banned, limiting it to truly criminal enterprises.

As I’ve written elsewhere, the Senate version was in some ways even worse than last year’s COICA bill.  It imposes significant costs on innocent Internet users, and would do so with no corresponding benefits to anyone, including rightsholders.

The best thing the House could do would be to ignore this dud and work instead on reforming the broken copyright system.  That would do the most to correct the imbalance in endless copyrights and a shrinking public domain, eliminating much of the incentive for infringement that exists today.

But short of that, I hope at least that the most dangerous provisions are removed.