The big topic of discussion this week in the media has been the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill proposed by Republican representative Lamar Smith, which would expand the ability of the United States to fight online trafficking of copywritten material.
This past Wednesday a group of websites, including some very large ones, collectively shut down their site for a day in protest. The UFC, which is known for taking a strong stance against copyright violation of their original material, has been under fire by many of its fans for supporting the bill.
In today's edition of the Las Vegas Review Journal, Executive Vice-President and General Counsel for Zuffa, Lawrence Epstein, defended his company's position:
All told, UFC's contribution to the economy is well more than $300 million each year, but as with so many American businesses and employers, the UFC's economic activity, its success, survival and contributions depend in large measure on the rule of law, clear protections for innovation and investments -- investments in people, investments in products, investments in intellectual property. When thieves steal broadcasts from the UFC, the NBA or the NFL -- broadcasts that law-abiding citizens pay for -- and then share them with impunity over the Internet -- it undermines UFC's investment, its profits and its ability to employ people and to help grow the economy.
Stealing is not innovation, contrary to what some commentators might imply. Stealing is stealing, and it hurts innovators, it hurts the economy, it kills jobs and it hurts Las Vegas and America.
One of the most fundamental roles of government is to protect its citizens from theft and fraud. Illegal sites operated in other countries are outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies. New legislation would provide the tools to protect Americans from these criminals by cutting them off from the American market in the same accepted and effective way we cut off websites that exploit children or distribute malware.
Thanks to the support of Nevada's own Sen. Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate is working toward passage of the Protect IP Act. A procedural vote scheduled for this week was cancelled so Sen. Reid can enter more negotiations with House leaders and their bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act.
When it comes to Internet thievery, some want to throw up their hands and admit defeat. Others argue that the Internet is better without rules. Both these arguments are wrong and shortsighted. There is a better way, and it is within our reach.
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