More information about the white paper, including a summary of the conclusions and recommendations it makes, can be found in its Press Release and in the copy of the White Paper available on the ABA IPL Section’s site.
This is part two in a series. For other posts in this series, click here.
In the past few months, there have been several public debates over whether ISPs could be – or should be – ordered to block access by any user in the United States to a website that is accused of copyright infringement (in this context, it’s generally referred to as “piracy,” although that term is not defined in the Copyright Act) or trademark counterfeiting (as that term is defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1116). This topic was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee during its February 16, 2011 hearing on “Targeting Websites Dedicated to Stealing American IP,” including in testimony delivered by Thomas M. Dailey of Verizon. Mr. Dailey recommended that the ability to obtain a court order directing ISPs to prevent an IP address from resolving should be limited to actions undertaken by the Attorney General’s office, so that private litigants would not “drain” ISP resources. Testimony at 2.
Recall that the proposed Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (“PROTECT IP Act” or “PIPA”) (S. 968) and Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) (H.R. 3261) foundered upon a fairly widespread opposition launched in mid-January 2012 to certain terms believed to be in the bills, including provisions for DNS blocking. Interestingly, only the Attorney General had the right – in both of these bills – to seek a court order mandating an ISP to block certain websites (as well as against three other types of intermediaries: financial payment processors, search engines and Internet advertisers). Under both bills, private rights holders were restricted to seeking court orders requiring actions to be undertaken by payment processors and Internet advertisers alone.
As a result of dramatic public pressure, proponents of the bill removed the so-called “DNS blocking provisions” before final markup sessions had occurred. See e.g., Press Release, “Smith to Remove DNS Blocking from SOPA, Retains Strong Provisions to Protect American Technology and Consumers,” Jan. 13, 2012 (“After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.”); see also Center for Democracy and Technology (“CDT”), “Copyright Bill Advances, But Draws Plenty of Criticism,” May 26, 2011; CDT, “The Open Internet Fights Back,” Jan. 16, 2012.
As a result, proposals to require ISPs to block content in U.S. civil actions – even with a court order in hand – have essentially become dormant.
Nonetheless, it’s an interesting exercise to explore what other jurisdictions have done in this regard.
Orders Requiring ISPs to Block Access to Sites Providing Infringing Content (UK)
For instance, at least three opinions issued in U.K. cases relatively recently required ISPs to block access to websites that facilitated file sharing or other infringement of copyrighted materials. They are:
- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. v. British Telecomm. PLC,  EWHC 1981 (Ch) (Eng. & Wales High Court (CH) July 28, 2011) – granting website blocking order pursuant to Digital Economy Act of 2010 (pdf here) § 97A – the first opinion to do so in the UK [¶ 5]
- L’Oreal v. eBay, Case No. C-324/09 (Court of Justice of the EU July, 12, 2011) — recommending blocking order based on Senior Courts Act 1981 § 37(1) and based on an analysis of the CJEU’s Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC), at Art. 11.
* “Second, L’Oréal submits that eBay is liable for the use of L’Oréal trade marks where those marks are displayed on eBay’s website and where sponsored links triggered by the use of keywords corresponding to the trade marks are displayed on the websites of search engine operators, such as Google.” [Id. ¶ 38]
Dramatico Enter. Ltd v. British Sky Broad.,  EWHC 268 (Ch) (Eng. & Wales High Court (CH) Feb. 20, 2012) – concluding that both the users and operators of the Pirate Bay infringed the copyright owner’s rights [¶ 84]; also provides a summary of an expert opinion describing how BitTorrent works [¶¶ 19-20]; summarizes several orders requiring the URL blocking or “blackholing” of the infringing site [¶¶ 3-4].
European Commission, Report on EU Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, Results at the EU Border, 2011 (released July 24, 2012) (press release) (facts and figures): This report provides summaries of relevant data about seizures by EU customs, broken down by member country or by types of goods, but also reaches conclusions about the impact and nature of the infringement. For instance, it explains, “Counterfeiters do not concern themselves with product development costs, garantees [sic] or advertising. Profit is maximised by the theft and copying of an original idea, often with cheaper materials. Nevertheless, IPR infringing goods are increasingly sold at a price similar to that of the original goods and effectively substitute them on the market.” [at pages 13-14.]
EU Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC)
The European Observatory on Online Piracy and Counterfeiting, established in 2008.
This is the first in a series of articles on remedies considered for online counterfeiting and piracy, in light of the dismantling of the proposals set forth in the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) from earlier this year. For more on PIPA and SOPA, please see the prior posts on these topics.
The purpose of these articles is to explore potential ways to combat online counterfeiting and piracy, and in particular the type of counterfeiting and piracy that occurs overseas, but is directed at a U.S.-based audience. The most notable example in recent months is Megaupload, which has been taken down in a cooperative effort of seven countries. (For more on the Megaupload take-down, visit The Guardian (UK)’s Megaupload Page and the US Department of Justice’s news release announcing the indictment. For more about the U.S. Immigrations and Customs enforcement take-downs, see ICE’s news releases about its intellectual property enforcement efforts.)
However, cooperative effort across borders is only possible with countries that share the U.S.’s protection of intellectual property rights. Not all countries do. So, what are trademark and copyright owners to do to protect their IP rights in the online world, where geographic borders mean very little?
This series will examine enforcement efforts in other countries as an illustration of possible enforcement mechanisms that might be available, depending on how new legislation on this topic might be written.
Danish Maritime & Commercial Court Decision
A few days ago, Norsker & Co. (a Danish law firm) posted an article about a recent case, Hublot SA Geneve v. Bronsztejin in the Maritime and Commercial Court (May 3, 2012). According to the article, Danish purchasers ordered counterfeit Hublot watches from a Chinese online service. They paid Dkr$2,250 (USD $2,664.41) for these five watches. When the watches arrived at Danish customs, they were seized, pending proof that they had been purchased for private use. The purchasers did not provide such proof and the counterfeits were destroyed.
The court then punished the purchasers of these counterfeit watches, by assessing monetary fines and destroying the counterfeit watches. There does not appear to be any action taken against the sellers or any other entities in the distribution chain. The purchasers were required to pay the Danish Customs Office’s cost to destroy the counterfeit goods (Dkr2,500 = USD $438.34), damages for the trademark violation (presumably paid to the trademark holder) in the amount of Dkr5,000 (USD $ 859.49) and “costs” (presumably the court costs) in the amount of Dkr15,500 (USD $ 2,664.41). (Currency converter used here was accessed on May 22, 2012).
As a result, it appears that in Denmark, the courts have chosen to punish the purchasers of the counterfeit goods, and not the intermediaries in the distribution chain. The summary did not mention any other defendants – such as the payment processor who processed the credit card payment, or the shipping service that carried the goods across borders.
The articles to follow in this series will consider enforcement mechanisms imposed in other countries – and perhaps competing types of enforcement within the same jurisdiction – to see what other enforcement possibilities have been considered. Please note that I take no position on the effectiveness or fairness of any of these measures, but instead am collecting a laundry list of possible sanctions and targets of those sanctions for research purposes.