Brand-protection firm MarkMonitor estimates that rogue websites cost legitimate businesses of all sizes $135 billion in lost revenue annually. Further, over 2.5 million jobs have been lost to counterfeiting and piracy.  And with 19 million Americans employed in intellectual property-intensive industries, we can’t afford to let this continue.

The U.S. Senate has introduced legislation called the PROTECT IP Act to tackle this problem.  Yet, the bill continues being attacked with false claims.  I would like to set the record straight.

The PROTECT IP Act is narrowly crafted to affect only the deliberate online thieves.  The legislation defines rogue sites as websites dedicated to the sale and distribution of counterfeit and pirated products.  MarkMonitor estimates these rogue sites generate over 53 billion visits a year.  American law should not allow criminals to profit from distribution of stolen creative works.

Why do we need another law?  All the activity the PROTECT IP Act addresses is already illegal in the U.S.  But rogue sites deliberately operate from foreign countries where American enforcement agencies and courts have no jurisdiction.  These foreign criminals steal our most innovative and creative products, sell them back to us, and then snicker at how they have fooled us once again as they enjoy their ill-gotten profits!  We can’t shut down these foreign sites, but the PROTECT IP Act will allow us to deny them access to the U.S. marketplace.

Protection of intellectual property, like other property rights, is fundamental to economic growth and job creation.  Our Constitution expressly provides Congress with the power to protect intellectual property.  This bill provides full due process protections for accused pirates and requires actions against rogue sites only after a federal court ruling, subject to the same rules of procedure and process that apply in other federal cases.

The PROTECT IP Act is simply an attempt to protect our property--our intellectual property—from people engaging in the counterfeiting and theft of American products.  The act is similar in its intent to real property laws that encourage efficient investment in and development of products, promote prosperity and protect the fruits of man’s labor.

This is a criminal issue. It is an economic issue.  And it is a moral issue.  I commend the U.S. Senate for considering the PROTECT IP Act, and I encourage my former colleagues in the House of Representatives to consider a House version of the “rogue sites” legislation. 

Tom Feeney is a former Congressman and former Speaker of the Florida House.