Posted by Brad Smith
General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 – the PROTECT IP Act. We support the goals and approach of this important legislation, and urge the committee to report it.

The PROTECT IP Act is aimed at providing new tools to challenge the proliferation of “rogue sites” -- Internet sites that are dedicated to infringing content or counterfeit goods. It would establish both governmental and private rights of action in an effort to address what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates to be a multi-billion dollar a year problem that threatens U.S. creators and innovators, places U.S. consumers at risk, harms our economy and costs American jobs.

Senators Leahy, Grassley, Hatch and other bill sponsors have adopted an innovative response to this problem that empowers the U.S. courts to deal with intractable levels of infringement occurring outside the U.S. and encourages responsible behavior by companies participating in the Internet ecosystem and value chain. This is a welcome development. Worldwide, nations with the highest rates of piracy are consistently those with the weakest rule of law. U.S. innovators and creators can do little to combat piracy where enforcement authorities and the courts are overburdened or lack training or resources. And because piracy harms not only the rights owner, but our economy more broadly, it is reasonable to expect responsible companies to step up. As prior laws have demonstrated, a balanced approach that limits burdens while assigning reasonable responsibility to legitimate businesses positioned to aid in enforcement efforts has an important role to play in curbing infringement.

As the PROTECT IP Act moves to the Senate floor, some aspects naturally warrant further consideration to promote fairness and balance. For example, safeguards should be included to ensure that rogue sites are identified clearly and appropriately, and that the responsibilities of companies required to take action to ensure compliance are well defined and their liability appropriately limited. In addition, steps should be taken to ensure that the private right of action is not subject to abuse, and that the new actions and resulting orders do not stifle free speech or the free flow of information.

Microsoft is a company built on innovation and its protection through intellectual property rights, and we are committed to helping ensure that copyright is respected in the online environment. We look forward to working with others as this bill advances toward enactment.