While websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit were going dark earlier this month to protest online piracy legislation, KeepTheWebOpen.com was lighting up.
There, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is using crowdsourcing to gauge public opinion and gather suggested edits to the text of his online piracy bill that aims to avoid the fate of other recent piracy bills, which powerful Internet companies said would give the government too much power to remove online content.
Issa hopes his bill, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, or OPEN Act, will be seen as an alternative to the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act, which drew ire from the Internet community earlier this month. As it is currently written, the OPEN Act would give the International Trade Commission authority to investigate claims of copyright infringement by foreign websites. Unlike SOPA and PIPA, which would have given the Department of Justice the ability to shut down websites that were charged with hosting copyrighted material, OPEN would allow the ITC to investigate claims of copyright infringement.
House and Senate supporters of SOPA and PIPA put the brakes on their measures under pressure from Internet companies.
Mindful that another strong push for online piracy legislation could generate the kind of backlash that SOPA and PIPA suffered, OPEN supporters seem to be discreetly building support and gathering outside perspectives from online communities, the content-producing industry and the general public.
“The OPEN Act creates uniform and targeted online infringement policies that will help protect intellectual property rights — without threatening internet safety and the thriving internet marketplace,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said in an email. Moran and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) are two co-sponsors of the OPEN Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in December.
Wyden, who serves on the Finance Committee, is hoping the bill can move forward there. “I am working with Chairman [Max] Baucus [D-Mont.] to enable the Senate Finance Committee to explore the trade implications of this issue,” he said in an email.
Wyden also said that, like Issa, he will maintain the level of public input into the legislation. “I will continue that level of transparency and inclusiveness as I work with leadership to reach the consensus needed to move forward,” he said.
As OPEN moves forward, its supporters can expect protest from the groups that both supported and opposed SOPA and PIPA.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.