The bill is on hold, be careful which line you pick up
By Andrew Scharhag
NewGate Capital Partners
WHY YOU CARE: The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, also known as the Protect IP act has been getting some interesting press lately. Among other things, the act is intended to help Americans who are being duped into buying fake, illegal, or counterfeit drugs over the internet, but it could end up causing more problems than it solves. It is currently on “hold” by Sen. Ron Wyden but still has the potential to be enacted.
WHO IS LEADING: More than 50 executives including Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz, Esther Dyson of EDventure Holdings and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures signed a letter which explains that the bill will “put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy” and “is ripe for abuse.” These executives and many others are rightfully concerned that, although blocking the rogue sites from selling fake meds, the bill would also encourage actions to block Americans’ access to reputable and affordable non-U.S. online pharmacies that sell genuine medications.
WHAT THIS MEANS: These venture capitalists view this as a dangerous road to travel down. If the government can regulate search engines by blocking your computer’s access to certain websites this could open the door not only for political problems but also problem in internet traffic and rights. It seems that a line needs to be drawn determining what can and what cannot be blocked by the government. The idea of allowing anything to be blocked is a dangerous precedent.
WHAT IS COMING: For now the bill is stalled. However, the underlying reasons for the bill’s creation still exist. It would behoove venture capitalists to keep a close eye on this issue. It should not be allowed to undermine Americans’ right to free speech and access to any and all internet information that they want to receive. This bill could potentially open the door to major dilemmas by allowing the government to censor individuals’ access to information on the internet.
OUR VIEW: It seems that this bill is designed to protect Americans from false products. Some have suggested that limiting the bill to affect only dangerous pharmacy sites is the right thing to do. However, we do not think that this is a good solution. We believe that the only proper thing that the government can do as far as to controlling internet access to specific sites is make it apparent on FDA approved sites that the drugs are FDA approved. It is not the government’s job to censor citizens from false products. It is the job of the government to allow citizens to know when they are buying from FDA approved sites.