Shortly after the bill was tabled, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) used his power to put a temporary hold on the legislation. In his estimation, the act, as worded, would have the undesired effects of limiting free speech and negatively impacting e-commerce. In a press release on the issue, Wyden said:
“At the expense of legitimate commerce, [the bill's] prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the internet.”
The senator’s appraisal of the bill is quite accurate. As written, the Protect IP Act gives the attorney general and private intellectual property holders the power to not only sue owners and operators of U.S.-based websites, but to execute what is known as an in rem action – essentially an action against property without involving the owner – against websites where the owner is not American or cannot be located.
One of the tools the Protect IP Act would give rights holders is the ability to prevent the U.S. public from accessing websites that are believed to be violating intellectual property rights. Access to websites being challenged in a lawsuit under this law would be restricted at the ISP level. This will obviously put an additional strain on ISPs – one the government won’t reimburse them for.
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