ABA adds its voice to concerns over online piracy, counterfeiting

The American Bar Association (ABA) has joined the continuing effort to enact new laws to combat the threat of online piracy and counterfeiting

The American Bar Association (ABA) has joined the continuing effort to enact new laws to combat the threat of online piracy and counterfeiting.

The legal organization recently issued a white paper calling for Congress to consider remedies for what the ABA described as the presence of “massive” online piracy and counterfeiting. The wave of cyber-crime is impacting both consumers and businesses in the United States and elsewhere.

The white paper, “A Call for Action for Online Piracy and Counterfeiting Legislation,” focuses on predatory foreign websites (PFWs) and other threats.

The white paper also calls for “widespread adoption and expansion of voluntary measures” among businesses using the Internet, which will “discourage or eliminate online piracy and counterfeiting.”

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In addition, the white paper supports civil and criminal penalties against those enabling infringement by predatory foreign websites.

The solution should also balance the interests of Internet businesses, users of the Internet, and others, such as IP rights holders, the report said. It warns, too, against restricting the growth of the Internet and stifling innovation in the Internet, and cautions against blocking rights when it comes to freedom of speech.

“New law in this area should permit U.S. rights holders to enforce existing rights — and prevent the illegal use of their copyrighted works and trademarked brands in the U.S. — regardless of whether the illegal conduct originates in the U.S. or abroad,” the ABA added in a statement concerning the white paper.

The preferred solution from Congress should happen soon, and laws should become “more effective” to deter online piracy and counterfeiting, especially by predatory foreign websites, the ABA said.

The ABA does not want to see expansion or contraction of current third-party copyright liability. Nor does it want to see exceptions or limitations when it comes to liability under current trademark and copyright law.

The U.S.-focused white paper comes shortly after cyber-crime laws were enacted in Singapore and the Philippines. In the Philippines, online piracy can lead to a fine between $4,470 and $11,175, and somewhere between six and 20 years in prison, under the new law. Singapore approved amendments to its Copyright Act. It lets owners of copyrighted material get locally-owned Internet service providers to block “flagrantly infringing sites,” according to a report from Tech in Asia.

Looking at the big picture, the cost of cyber-crime worldwide is some $445 billion a year, according to a study undertaken by McAfee.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies claims that cyber-crime hurts trade, competitiveness and innovation globally, with larger economies especially hurting from the wrongdoing.

"Cyber crime is a tax on innovation and slows the pace of global innovation by reducing the rate of return to innovators and investors," Jim Lewis of CSIS said in a statement quoted by Reuters. "For developed countries, cyber crime has serious implications for employment."

Some 40 million Americans, or about 15 percent of the population, had their personal information stolen by online hackers, the Reuters report said.

In addition, 66 percent of respondents, in an iThreat Cyber Group study, said their organization is “moderately prepared or not prepared” for a significant cyber-attack, InsideCounsel reported. The survey questioned general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies.

Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein is a veteran writer and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. A graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he has won several...

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