House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders Monday reiterated their support for legislation cracking down on Internet piracy and intellectual property theft, and one content protection proponent saw all the makings of a bill that could get signed into law this session.
"Online infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods cost American creators, producers, and businesses billions of dollars and results in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs. This theft is unacceptable at any time; it is devastating in our current economic climate," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). "Protecting American intellectual property on the Internet is not uniquely an industry or labor concern; it is not uniquely a Democrat or Republican concern. It is an American concern, and addressing it is crucial to our economic success and job growth."
Leahy introduced a bill that would toughen IP enforcement and plans to introduce another one this session.
As expected, their press conference to tee up the issue in this Congress drew raves from the affected industries, many of which were in the audience or spokes at the gathering about the threat to jobs and profits.
The Motion Picture Association of America thanked the legislators, which included Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick
Leahy, ranking member John Conyers and House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, for "showing public, bipartisan support for seeking legislative tools to address the serious and escalating threat of websites that profit from trafficking stolen content: MPAA said in a statement.
Given the threat of content piracy to TV show and movies online, where more of those shows are being streamed every day, it is not surprising that there was a large contingent of unions represented. In a joint statement, SAG, AFRTRA, DGA and IATSE stood alongside the studios, Republicans, and Democrats to support "real and effective enforcement measures to fight Internet theft."
The unions called Internet pirates profiteers who "are willing to sacrifice the jobs of our members and the thousands of others who depend on the entertainment industry to make a living....Protecting jobs and fostering creativity and American ingenuity should be the first order of business for the United States government."
Content protection legislation is in the works on both sides of the aisle, with a hearing on the issue slated in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday (April 6).
According to Rick Cotton, EVP and general counsel of NBCU, and one of the leading voices for content protection, there are at least two keys to legislation from either side, and the press conference suggested both are present. "One is broad bipartisan support by key leaders of the Congress for enacting legislation that will have an impact on reducing digital theft and counterfeiting. Secondly, you saw a united front between organized labor and the business community about the growing urgency for such action."
One studio source said to look for legislation in the next several weeks. "I think with today's event, it certainly suggests the emergence of a bill with stron bipartisan support, and I think that is a strong signal that congressional action is a high likelihood this session."