By: Mark Elliot
America has become an international leader in innovation and a hotbed for industries, job creators, artists and new thinkers of all kinds.
Spanning from the music to manufacturing to technology sectors, America has a significant interest in keeping our companies and creators viable and open for business. Unfortunately, there is a stealthy menace seeking to rob our nation of the ingenuity for which we are so well known.
The property rights of American businesses and artists are under assault by foreign rogue sites, websites dedicated to the theft of intellectual property. This property, embodied in trademarks and copyrights, is being stolen en masse by cyber criminals and resold to unsuspecting consumers, oftentimes at their own risk.
Rogue websites have a history of taking from Americans. Through the 53 billion site visits that they attract per year, these illegal online retailers have cost legitimate businesses $135 billion in revenues and contribute to the loss of 2.5 million jobs in the G-20 economies. Nationally, 19 million Americans depend on IP-intensive industries for stable, secure employment opportunities.
Rogue sites seek to undermine the ability of these industries to create jobs, by ripping off and reselling entertainment, technologies, pharmaceuticals, or consumer products, all without following the laws, contributing taxes, or providing jobs to those whose innovation and creativity made the products so popular in the first place.
Not only is the theft of IP an incursion on our Constitutional protections for property, but rogue sites pose serious health and safety risks to consumers. Recently, both the Better Business Bureau and National Consumers League issued letters to Congress warning of the threat rogue sites pose to consumers, who have suffered serious health conditions thanks to rogue online pharmacies, or have been subject to identity theft or malware through pirate sites.
Stores selling these illegal goods are not allowed in brick-and-mortar world, so why should they be tolerated online? Our intellectual property laws need some serious updating to correspond with 21st century commerce. Legislation is needed- and urgently- to stop this bleed on our creative and innovative businesses.
Rogue sites legislation will give our law enforcement the necessary legal tools to go after these online criminals, who abuse the Internet from beyond our borders, and therefore, beyond the reach of our enforcement agencies.
Proposed legislation, like the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) and House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, H.R. 3261) authorize a federal court to direct the suspension of services (payment processing, advertisements and linking) to rogue sites.
The techniques put forth to block these illegal enterprises are by no means new and are already in use to combat the likes of child pornography and malware or spammers.
The call for rogue sites legislation has broad and far-reaching support. Yesterday, a diverse group of over 400 small, medium, and large businesses and associations from every state of the Union urged Capitol Hill to take a serious look into the widespread problem of counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet. Furthermore, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO both have called for the immediate enactment of rogue sites legislation.
Fortunately, the calls have been heard. Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider the Stop Online Piracy Act. We thank Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) for working diligently to address reasonable concerns with his recently introduced Manager’s Amendment to H.R. 3261, and look forward to sending this bill to the House floor soon.
Mark Elliot is the Executive Vice President for the Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.