US Lawmakers Urged to Consider Stricter Site Blocking Measures

US Lawmakers Urged to Consider Stricter Site Blocking

Rightsholders are urging the US Government to consider blocking pirate sites as a “much-needed” solution.

The clamor for site-blocking as an anti-piracy measure is intensifying. Creative Future’s CEO, Ruth Vitale, along with the Association of American Publishers (AAP), is at the forefront of this push, urging US lawmakers to consider this approach as a potential “game changer” in the fight against digital piracy.

The Backdrop

The shadow of the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) defeat still looms over US politicians, making them wary of the site-blocking conversation.

The controversy around SOPA shifted the focus of copyright holders to site-blocking efforts in other nations, resulting in successes abroad.

Over 40 countries, including neighbors like Canada, have now adopted site-blocking measures. Given this global momentum, the US may finally be ready to reconsider its stance on this controversial method.

The Pivot in Anti-Piracy Strategies

The US Government’s Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently sought consultation to discuss prospective anti-piracy and counterfeiting strategies.

Among various responses, site-blocking emerged as a recurrent theme. While there is a provision for rightsholders to request blocking injunctions, the law’s ambiguity surrounding the liability of ISPs makes this mechanism tricky.

What rightsholders desire is a shift in the US legal framework to allow ‘no fault’ injunctions.

This means that courts, with proper judicial oversight, should have the power to direct Internet providers to block foreign pirate websites without holding these intermediaries liable.

The Menace of Piracy

For Creative Future, an organization that stands for hundreds of companies and over 300,000 individuals from the creative industry, piracy isn’t just an obstacle—it’s an existential threat.

Ruth Vitale emphatically points out that while the US is home to the largest number of pirates globally, it notably lacks efficient tools to tackle known pirate sites.

She laments the irony that while effective anti-piracy measures are being employed worldwide, the US still lags behind.

Vitale stresses that court-ordered site-blocking injunctions have shown promise in countries like Canada and the UK.

If executed properly, such measures can potentially turn pirates towards legal subscriptions, translating to a considerable revenue boost for the creative sector.

Rebutting The Concerns

While site-blocking has its merits, concerns regarding overblocking and the subsequent threat to freedom of expression remain.

Though isolated incidents of overblocking have been recorded overseas, Vitale argues that these “outdated arguments” shouldn’t deter Congress from giving site-blocking serious thought.

Publishers’ Perspective

The AAP is another staunch advocate of site-blocking. They’ve presented two main legislative suggestions: a takedown-staydown policy ensuring once removed content stays down, and, importantly, site-blocking.

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The AAP emphasizes that while site-blocking isn’t a cure-all, it’s a proven and effective remedy in numerous jurisdictions globally.

Their stance is clear: if it works worldwide, it should work in the US too.

Past Appeals and The Way Forward

This isn’t the first plea for site-blocking in the US. Though no solid plans have materialized so far, there’s a palpable shift in sentiments.


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US Senator Thom Tillis’s public outreach for opinions on site-blocking met with fervent support from entities like the Motion Picture Association. However, as with any controversial topic, opposition is expected.

Conclusion

The debate around site blocking as an anti-piracy measure is heating up.

With international success stories as evidence, proponents like Creative Future and AAP are pressing for its adoption in the US. While concerns about its potential misuse remain, it’s undeniable that the measure could pave the way for a more robust anti-piracy framework in the country.

As rightsholders rally for change, it remains to be seen how US lawmakers will respond.

For more information on this story, refer to the report on TorrentFreak and Creative Future’s response to AAP (PDF).

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