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Open Internet

Promoting Investment and Protecting Commerce Online: Legitimate Sites v. Parasites, Part I

CDT supports the goal of reducing online infringement. Large-scale copyright infringement undermines First Amendment values in promoting expression and threatens the growth of new media and e-commerce. With respect to the particular focus of this hearing, CDT recognizes that there are websites whose main purpose and activity is to enable and promote infringement. These sites are true “bad actors” and they deserve to be the target of law enforcement.

CDT believes, however, that the specific means chosen to address infringement matter a great deal. Some tactics may be attractive from a copyright protection perspective, but would carry significant costs to important values such as innovation and free speech. CDT urges members of this Subcommittee to be aware of this risk and to carefully avoid tactics that would impair lawful Internet-based media and communications tools that are of growing value to consumers, the economy, and society in general.

After a brief note regarding the scope of the problem, this testimony will offer several principles for evaluating proposed policy approaches. It will then address the significant concerns raised by a specific enforcement tactic that has received considerable attention in recent months: the idea of combating allegedly infringing websites by ordering the seizure or blocking of their domain names. In short, CDT believes that legislation targeting domain names would be ineffective at achieving the goal of reducing infringement. At the same time, a domain-name approach would threaten unintended collateral damage in a number of areas, including suppressing lawful speech; exacerbating cybersecurity risks; and encouraging a dangerous global scrum in which each country tries to use the domain name system to assert domestic jurisdiction over foreign websites. Congress should not pursue such an approach.