It was disappointing this week to read comments made by Senator Ron Wyden about potential legislation that would give law enforcement more tools to police bad actors in the Internet marketplace.
Individuals and crime syndicates – oftentimes outside the United States - are setting up websites that traffic in unlicensed intellectual property and counterfeit goods. These are not legitimate or licensed products, and they often come with nasty surprises for the consumer, such as malware, spyware and other means of facilitating identity theft. Legislation being contemplated by some leaders in Congress would give law enforcement tools to go after these so-called “rogue website” operators.
It was reported that in a forum last week, Senator Wyden, discussing this potential legislation, stated “we can’t have one part of the economy, the content industry, using the government as a club to hold back another important part of the economy, and that’s the technology sector.”
This is a false choice. The copyright community and the technology sector drive and sustain each other. They each contribute disproportionately to the wealth of this nation, and both sectors depend on a vibrant, legal marketplace of digital content. We would share Senator Wyden's concerns if indeed a bill were introduced that set up such a Hobson's choice, but the hearings in both the House and Senate on the issue of rogue websites make us optimistic that both chambers are considering the issues surrounding this legislation carefully.
The true choice at hand is whether to protect legitimate online commerce and those whose jobs depend on it – in both the content and technology sectors – from offshore rogue websites that comprise an online back alley of unlicensed, unregulated and unsafe products.
The true choice is whether to protect millions of jobs and billions of dollars of tax revenue generated by creators, artists, and distributors - many of them making middle class livings and giving back to their local communities - against rampant digital theft of this work by parasitic entities outside the United States.
The true choice is whether to protect consumers from misleading, fraudulent schemes by unscrupulous offshore operators whose “services” are often accompanied by malware, spyware and other unpleasant surprises.
We hope members of Congress will look closely at legislation when it is introduced, and find that the choice is simple.