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An OPEN Internet?

January 19, 2012

You’ve undoubtedly heard all about SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect IP Act) with all of their potential unintended consequences on the Internet, from inhibiting free speech to the loss of Internet-based jobs to the devastation of sites like Facebook and Flickr.

You’ve probably not heard about OPEN, the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act. While SOPA and PIPA have lost much of their congressional support in the past couple of days, OPEN was introducted in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. The bill had already been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Dec. 17, 2011.

OPEN has 24 co-sponsors in the U.S. House. The bill was tabled in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

All three try to deal with the issue of copyright infringement and sales of potentially unsafe products like medications on foreign-based web sites that the U.S. government can’t touch without the cooperation of foreign governments.

What’s different about OPEN is it would put enforcement of its provisions in the hands of the International Trade Commission as opposed to SOPA, which gives the U.S. Attorney General power to seek court orders for alleged copyright violations.

The ITC already handles all cases of foreign imports accused of copyright infringement.

Under OPEN, the ITC could initiate investigations into alleged copyright infringements itself or act on complaints received, would determine if a violation occurred rather than seeking a court order, and determine whether the site’s ability to transact business with online payment processors and online advertising services should be stripped.

The big controversy involving SOPA was it required search engines and ISPs to actively block access to offending sites. OPEN, instead, focuses on stripping the ability of offending sites to conduct business online. OPEN also allows those charged to apply to modify, suspend or vacate an ITC order.

The text of all three proposed bills can be found at the following locations:

* OPEN(Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act)
* SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)
* PIPA (Protect IPA Act)

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