Ah, the US Chamber of Commerce. The private lobbying giant, which thrives on people confusing it with the US Department of Commerce, is really, really angry about "counterfeits." Of course, one might argue that the only reason its been so successful itself is the likelihood of confusion between it and the US Department of Commerce. But we'll leave that aside for now. The CoC has been a big time supporter of PROTECT IP lately, but apparently is simply unable to make a credible argument in favor of the law.
The group has put out two incredibly misleading videos. The first one focused on a woman in Canada who got bogus drugs
that allegedly led to her death. Of course, Protect IP only applies to the US, so the woman in Canada still would have had a problem. And, a larger point is that there are tons of legitimate pharmacies, and it's pretty easy to tell what's legit and what's not. Why this woman was ordering from a questionable pharmacy is never explained. Furthermore, the scare stories about fake drugs killing people tend to be overblown as well. It doesn't do fake pharmacies much good either to kill customers. Finally, the fake drugs issue could be dealt with by legislation that focuses on fake drugs
. Not ridiculously broad legislation that encourages censorship and puts the compliance burden and liability on tons of US companies.
The second video was even more ridiculous. Finally moving away from the "fake drugs kill people, and therefore we need to censor the internet to stop people from sharing music" line of argument, it presented some content creators whining about a changing world. Except... as our own research showed, none of the "victims" in the video had their stories fully check out
. Two of them had relied on the works of others to build their own careers, while complaining that others might do the same to them. The actress had a bit role in one film nearly a decade ago that got unanimously dreadful reviews ("so bad that it makes you feel like tearing your eyebrows off one by one just to numb the pain") and was complaining that her royalty checks a decade later were too low. The author complained that her industry was suffering because of file sharing -- directly contradicted by other authors
and the publishing industry's own statistics
So... now, the CoC is back to screaming "fake drugs! dead people!" In a piece penned by the CoC's "executive VP" of its "Global Intellectual Property Center," Mark Elliot, the claim is made that if we don't censor the internet, the US won't be able to innovate any more
. Complete and utter hogwash.
We need to create an environment that rewards that innovation.
We have one. It's called the marketplace. And you know what doesn't reward innovation? When the legacy companies run to the government to have every new innovative platform -- the player piano, radio, cable TV, the photocopier, the VCR, the mp3 player, the DVR, online video, etc. -- declared infringing and locked up and shut down. But that's what PROTECT IP is designed to do.
For example, imagine spending hundreds of millions of dollars on research for a new lifesaving drug, only to have a counterfeiter make an unregulated, substandard version, with little or no medical value. Imagine that counterfeiter selling this product with your name on it online with impunity.
Well, they can't sell it online with impunity. We already have trademark law, which doesn't allow that kind of thing. Why doesn't Elliot mention that? Ah, well, because it undermines his whole argument. Also, the idea that people are confused into buying the fake drugs has little support in reality. Legitimate pharmacies sell the real thing and most people know how to find a legitimate pharmacy. The people seeking alternatives are those priced out of the market -- due in large part to the ridiculously high prices set on drugs due to draconian and excessive IP laws... the same laws Elliot now seeks to make even more draconian.
Imagine, for another example, opening up your own small business, a photography studio. You work by yourself, maybe with one assistant, and take wonderful, high-quality photographs that you sell to advertising agencies or the hometown newspaper. Imagine that you are able to expand and hire two or three of your neighbors to meet the growing demand.
Then imagine your customers downloading your photos from a website that stole your best images, posted them online and profited from either sales of your photos or advertising revenue from the attraction of your photos.
Imagine being smart about that, and using it to your advantage. Imagine highlighting those who copied your image, and destroying their reputations while building your own. Furthermore, existing copyright law already handles the situation described above. PROTECT IP does nothing to deal with the situation described here.
These rogue websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy put U.S. jobs, consumers and innovation at risk. Last year, these rogue sites stole an estimated $135 billion in sales from legitimate retailers around the globe. They clearly violate the intellectual property rights of U.S. citizens by ignoring our trademark and copyright laws.
Funny. The "rogue sites" that have been described in the past were not posting photos. Furthermore, no rogue site "stole" sales from anyone. Why can't the USCoC use the proper language? And that $135 billion number has been debunked so many times -- even by the US government -- that it's sad that its still trotting that out.
The Senate is waiting to vote on the legislation, and the House is due to introduce its version of rogue site legislation in the coming days. We look forward to the enactment of rogue-site legislation this year to protect American jobs and consumers by cutting off the worst online intellectual property thieves from the U.S. marketplace.
Translation: the old dying legacy business, who pay the US Chamber of Commerce to lie in public for them, want a new protectionist, anti-innovation law to shut down any technology that interferes with their business model -- and they believe the best way to do so is to put the entire compliance and legal burden on the upcoming startups who are building the platforms that will disrupt their existing business.
It's a really disgusting and cynical approach from an organization that has a history of such bogus efforts.