Digital Policy Roundup: Swirl of Activity Around Online Copyright Infringement Legislation as Congress Returns

As Congress heads back into session this week, substantial activity continues to swirl around legislation to curb online copyright infringement. The Administration announced a position on legislation, indicating that it had reservations on provisions that would impose DNS blocking, but committing to passage of legislation this year. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), lead sponsors of the legislation, last week announced that they would be dropping DNS blocking from the House and Senate versions of the bill, but indicated that they wanted to press forward with the modified legislation.

Lamar Smith said that the markup on the legislation would resume in his House Judiciary Committee in early February. Meanwhile, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Internet Caucus co-chair and a key supporter of the legislation, indicated yesterday in his remarks at the State of the Net Conference that any successful legislation would have to have buy-in from both content and tech companies and suggested bringing the sides together to negotiate their differences. Also last week, a group of Republican Senators wrote to Majority Leader Harry Reid asking that the legislation not be brought up for a procedural vote when the Senate returns next week, citing the need to examine the effect of the bill on cybersecurity. As of January 18, however, the bill remained on the Senate schedule for a procedural vote on January 24.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy.

House and Senate Committee leaders give positive signals on key tech policy issues

Last week, House Judiciary Sbcmte. Chair for IP, Competition and the Internet Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) made his priorities public. No real surprises, but it served as official confirmation that patent reform, copyright enforcement and net neutrality are at the top of the list. Not wasting any time, the Subcommittee will hold its first hearing on Patent Reform this Wednesday. Indeed, the new Committee structure instituted by new Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) was intended to grant a substantially greater focus on IP protection and Internet issues. As a founding leader of the Congressional Internet Caucus, Chairman Goodlatte is just the guy to champion many of these key issues to the benefit of innovation, e-commerce and job growth.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Cmte. priority list looks similar, with Chairman Leahy (D-VT) recently highlighting his priorities to include an even broader slate, adding revision of the electronic communications privacy (ECPA) law and wiretapping (CALEA) to patent reform and combating online copyright infringement and counterfeiting (COICA). In fact, the Senate Cmte. is moving even faster than its House counterpart by moving to consider draft patent reform legislation this Thursday.

Of course, we already knew that privacy would be on the front burner in the House and Senate Commerce Committees. That’s continuing to take shape as well. Recent reports continue to indicate that Sen. Kerry (D-MA) will lead on this, with hearings likely in mid-February and his draft legislation on the issue likely to be introduced in the near future. Importantly, Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, on Thursday sent a letter to her colleagues confirming her commitment to “work diligently” on the issue of privacy “both online and offline,” while also reiterating the complexity of the issue and her commitment to provide for “careful consideration and not ‘knee-jerk’ solutions.” Amen!

In all, while there are many issues Republicans and Democrats radically disagree on, some of these technology issues, like Patent reform and IP protection could possibly be in the right place, at the right time. Stay tuned.

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