Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, is among the co-sponsors of an alternative to the Stop Online Piracy Act, the prospect of which caused Wikipedia, WordPress and scores of other websites to go dark Wednesday in protest.
With 21 House members and three senators, Thompson is pushing the narrower Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (House Resolution 3782), introduced Wednesday, which would allow intellectual property holders to petition the International Trade Commission for an investigation into foreign websites infringing on U.S. copyrights and trademarks.
If the ITC investigation finds a foreign website is infringing on U.S. property rights, the commission would issue a cease-and-desist order compelling payment processors, like PayPal, and online advertising providers to cease doing business with those running the site.
By targeting sites “primarily and willfully” infringing on U.S. property rights, Thompson said, the OPEN Act would reduce the number of frivolous complaints and not put website operators in the position of having lawyers at the ready to argue their case — a situation Thompson believes would discourage both innovation and free speech.
“Under the rules SOPA would impose, our innovation-driven economy would take an enormous blow,” Thompson said. “Start-ups wouldn’t be able to handle the costs that come with defending their sites against a barrage of alleged violations.
“Domestic companies could be held liable for unknowingly linking to rogue website content. And people won’t invest in Internet start-ups for fear their money will be tied up in litigation, not innovation.”
The OPEN Act has received the backing of such major Internet players as Google, Facebook, eBay and Twitter, as well as the
Consumer Electronics Association and Computer and Communications Industry Association.