A group of companies sent a letter to to Attorney General Eric Holder and ICE boss John Morton today (with cc’s to VP Joe Biden, Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano, IP Czar Victoria Espinel, Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. John Conyers, Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Charles Grassley), supporting the continued seizure of domain names they don’t like, as well as the new COICA censorship bill, despite the serious Constitutional questions raised about how such seizures violate due process and free speech principles. While many reporting on this letter refused to actually post a copy of the full letter, kudos to Greg Sandoval over at News.com for doing so (full text also included after the jump on this post).
The companies try to present a united front that censoring the internet is a good thing. It includes the usual suspects of Viacom and NBC Universal on the content side and Louis Vuitton and Tiffany on the counterfeiting side, but there are a few other interesting names: such as Monster Cable (never met an IP law it didn’t want to abuse, apparently), the NBA, MLB and NFL (sports leagues unite in censorship!) as well as Voltage Pictures, famous for suing thousands of fans for downloading Hurt Locker. Activison, which has become increasingly aggressive on IP issues lately is on the list as well, of course. Anyway, here’s the full list of companies that support censoring the internet, because they’re too lazy to compete in the marketplace or innovate when that market changes:
- Nike – Beaverton, OR
- Achushnet – Fairhaven, MA
- Curb Music Publishing – Nashville, TN
- NBC Universal – New York, NY
- Viacom – New York, NY
- Callaway – Carlsbad, CA
- Cleveland Golf – Huntington Beach, CA
- Rosetta Stone – Arlington, VA
- Activision – Santa Monica, CA
- Adidas Group – Portland, OR
- Xerox – Norwalk, CT
- Hastings Entertainment, Inc. – Amarillo, TX
- Fortune Brands – Deerfield, IL
- Coty Inc. – New York, NY
- EDGE Entertainment Distribution – Streetsboro, OH
- Oakley, Inc. – Foothill Ranch, CA
- PING – Phoenix, AZ
- Louis Vuitton – New York, NY
- D’Addario and Company – Farmingdale, NY
- Monster Cable Products, Inc. – Brisbane, CA
- Tiffany and Co. – New York, NY
- Farouk Systems, Inc. – Houston, TX
- Beam Global – Deerfield, IL
- Chanel USA – New York, NY
- True Religion Apparel, Inc. – Vernon, CA
- Concord Music Group – Beverly Hills, CA
- Village Roadshow Pictures – Beverly Hills, CA
- National Basketball Association – New York, NY
- National Football League – New York, NY
- The Collegiate Licensing Company/IMG College – Atlanta, GA
- Anderson Merchandisers – Amarillo, TX
- Trans World Entertainment Corporation – Albany, NY
- Timberland – Stratham, NH
- Major League Baseball – New York, NY
- Lightening Entertainment/Mainline Releasing – Santa Monica, CA
- Sierra Pictures – Beverly Hills, CA
- Voltage Pictures LLC – Los Angeles, CA
- Worldwide Film Entertainment LLC – Westchester, CA
- Nu Image, Inc. – Los Angeles, CA
- Burberry Limited – New York, NY
- Big Machine Records – Nashville, TN
- The Little Film Company – Studio City, CA
- Columbia Sportswear Company – Portland, OR
These companies are clearly trying to protect their own business interests, but it seems reasonable to let them know that you don’t appreciate them seeking to censor the internet. If you haven’t been following this story, and want to understand the details, we’ve discussed why COICA is all about censoring websites without due process and in violation of the First Amendment. We’ve also discussed how the ongoing (pre-COICA) domain name seizures were riddled with serious errors that appear to violate the law as well, including seizing the domains of blogs regularly used and recognized within the music industry based on evidence involving songs sent by the record labels themselves.
And, of course, none of this is to say that violating copyright or trademark laws should be allowed. But we have a system to deal with such things: you file a lawsuit, you have an adversarial hearing in a courtroom (i.e., due process) and you let both sides present their case. COICA and these domain seizures look to avoid all of that. And that’s a big, big problem. That these companies would support such censorship and leapfrogging over due process suggests that they’re companies not worth doing business with.
We run companies large and small that represent diverse aspects of America’s intellectual property community. While our employees live in different regions of the country, and work to produce a variety of goods and services, they have several important things in common – they work hard, they are committed to quality and innovation and they welcome competition. However, allowing others to unfairly compete by stealing the ideas, innovations and intellectual property rights created by our employees cannot be tolerated. This theft diminishes our ability to keep and create jobs, and makes it far more difficult to attract the capital needed to invest in new products and services. In order to protect our free enterprise system, and the standard of living it has contributed to our nation, it is critical that we multiply our efforts to identify and punish the criminals who steal what we create and produce.
Thus, we appreciate the effort and energy behind Operation in Our Sites. The actions announced on November 29, 2010 once again demonstrated that, just as in the physical world, prosecutors and courts can judiciously assess evidence and distinguish between legitimate businesses and criminal enterprises that flout the law and profit from the ingenuity of others. We believe that the online marketplace can only work for consumers and creators if there is respect for property rights and the rule of law – and urge you to continue to act against the kinds of domains that you have targeted. Unfortunately, there are far too many sites stealing from our businesses but we believe that your efforts will drive consumers to the many legitimate online ventures and services that we have worked hard to foster and support.
We encourage you to work with your colleagues in the Administration and the Congress toward enactment of the principles central to S. 3804 – the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. The legislation crafted by Senators Leahy and Hatch was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will undoubtedly be reintroduced this congress. The proposal expounds upon the law enforcement techniques at the heart of “Operation In Our Sites” and will ensure that rogue sites cannot evade U.S. jurisdiction by escaping offshore to foreign-based registrars, registries and country codes in order to peddle stolen American intellectual property back into the U.S. market. In addition, the Leahy-Hatch proposal provides an entirely new level of protection for U.S. rights holders by establishing the legal framework necessary to disrupt the business models of the illicit, offshore sites by starving them of the financing, advertising and access to consumers upon which they depend. The carefully balanced measure would allow American law enforcement officials and U.S. courts to deny thieves the ability to use the Internet to enter the U.S. market and undermine our businesses while reaping financial gain for themselves.
We hope that you will continue dedicating resources to Operation in Our Sites and work toward the Obama Administration’s endorsement of the Leahy-Hatch legislation.
- Censorship 2010 Recap (censorshipinamerica.wordpress.com)
- 2010 Trend Watch Update: Global Internet Censorship (censorshipinamerica.wordpress.com)
- Researcher Maps Extent of Internet Censorship Worldwide (censorshipinamerica.wordpress.com)