Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In View of Events From the Last Several Days, Are PROTECT-IP and SOPA Even Necessary?

I've written in the past about the so-called PROTECT-IP act and SOPA, two proposed bills currently before Congress.  Proponents of the bills claim that they are necessary to protect legacy content industries against "rogue websites" that supposedly enable intellectual property theft.  As other opponents of the bills and I have noted, the bills are overbroad, overreaching, and will do more harm than good.

Events of the last several days suggest that the government and IP holders are not afraid to use (and perhaps abuse) existing case law and court procedures to deal with "rogue" websites.  In particular:

  • On Monday and again today, several sources reported about a Nevada district judge granting a far-reaching TRO sought by Chanel, the maker of luxury goods.  As a private party, Chanel asked the court to seize domain names that allegedly sold counterfeit goods.  The Court didn't simply grant an injunction against the defendants prohibiting them from using any Chanel marks or selling any Chanel products.  It went further and ordered (1) an injunction against the top-level domain name registry, directing it to change the registrar of record for the domain names to GoDaddy; (2) an injunction telling GoDaddy to change the DNS data for the domain names so the domain names resolve to a site where a copy of the case documents are hosted; and (3) an order requiring Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter to "de-index and/or remove [the domain names] from any search results pages."

It's not clear whether the ICE seizures actually comply with due process, or are otherwise illegal.  It's even more unclear whether the Nevada court's order is legal (among other things, it doesn't seem proper for a court to enjoin non-parties such as Google, Bing, etc.)  However, if the government already has the power to seize websites, and if existing law already gives private companies such as Chanel the right to obtain such broad remedies, it's hard to see what PROTECT-IP act and SOPA will really add to stopping "rogue websites."  Perhaps, as we have argued, what the proponents of those bills really want is to obtain far broader powers against legitimate Internet-based companies and free speech.

1 comment:

  1. Good updates. You have described many information in one post. Now only I have got it. Thanks for sharing...