SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith unveils new intellectual property bill

lamar smith

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), notorious on the Web for authoring the widely despised Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), unveiled a new bill this week that seeks to further spread U.S. intellectual property regulations around the world. 

Entitled the “Intellectual Property Attache Act” (IPAA), the bill would move the IP attache program, which is currently part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to the Commerce Department. IPAA would also expand the IP attache program by making it a full agency, as well as creating a new position, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property.

IPAA was originally a part of SOPA, under Section 205, but was sidelined along with the rest of SOPA after the contentious anti-piracy bill was all but killed following mass online protests against the legislation.

Formally established in 2006, the USPTO’s Overseas Intellectual Property Rights Attache program has one mission: “to promote high standards of IP protection and enforcement internationally for the benefit of U.S. economic and political interests abroad,” according to the official description. In other words, IP attaches are U.S. government “diplomats” who push for other countries to adopt similar intellectual property protections as those in the U.S., and make sure other countries aren’t establishing policies that allow for the infringement of U.S. copyrights. Or, as IPAA describes it, IP attaches would work “to advance the intellectual property rights of United States persons and their licensees…”

TechDirt’s Mike Masnick, a strong and outspoken opponent of U.S. intellectual property regulation, sees IPAA and the IP attache program in general as nothing more than the U.S. government forcing the will of Hollywood on the rest of the world. IP attaches, say Masnick, are effectively “Hollywood’s global police force.”

“[IP attaches] do not have the best interests of the public or the country in mind,” writes Masnick. “Their job is solely to push the copyright maximalist views of the legacy entertainment industry around the globe, and position it as the will of the U.S. government.”

Masnick also takes issue with the fact that IPAA was basically a “secret” from the public, and is being fast-tracked through the House, with the House Judiciary Committee set to hold a markup on the bill today. (At the time of this writing, the committee had not yet covered IPAA.)

So, should the average Internet user worry about IPAA? That depends on how broken you believe U.S. intellectual property protections are. If you oppose expanding the interests of U.S. copyright holders, then you should probably oppose IPAA. If, however, you are more trusting of the current system, then IPAA probably won’t rub you the wrong way. We must also add that one of the co-sponsors of IPAA is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who fiercely opposed SOPA and just this week became the first congressman to sign the Declaration of Internet Freedom, a petition that seeks to further the goal of an open Web.

Regardless, you can be sure that this is one bill we’ll be keeping our eyes on. Stay tuned.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Gaming

Among hundreds of choices, these are the best 25 SNES games of all time

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games.
Home Theater

Not chill: Netflix is hiking prices across all its tiers

Netflix has to get the billions of dollars it's spending on new content from somewhere. The streaming giant announced price hikes across the board, raising its monthly rates between $1 and $2 per tier in the next few months.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Movies & TV

NBCUniversal will launch its own streaming service in 2020

NBCU is prepping a streaming service filled with its original content for a debut sometime next year, meaning that Michael, Dwight, and the rest of the Scranton crew might be moving to a new home.
Home Theater

Sling TV offers free shows, a la carte subscription channels to Roku users

If you are among a select group of Roku users, Sling TV has added free TV shows and the option to subscribe to individual channels without having to subscribe to the company's base level of channels.
Gaming

Break out the Wii: ‘Just Dance’ movie reportedly in the works

Sony's Screen Gems has reportedly acquired the film rights to the Just Dance video game series from Ubisoft, which previously helped bring the game Assassin's Creed to the big screen in 2016.
Movies & TV

Apple’s first original feature film reunites Bill Murray, Sofia Coppola

The Lost in Translation team of Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray will reunite with their A Very Murray Christmas collaborator Rashida Jones for On the Rocks, Apple and studio A24's first official feature together.
Movies & TV

You can get a screaming deal on LG OLED TVs just in time for the Super Bowl

LG is offering steep discounts on its critically acclaimed OLED TV models just in time for the Super Bowl, letting discerning viewers watch their favorite athletes with higher picture quality than ever.
Movies & TV

Jason Reitman’s ‘Ghostbusters’ sequel already has a creepy teaser trailer

Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, has secretly co-written a follow-up to the 1984 supernatural comedy. Filming begins this summer, but it's not clear if the original Ghostbusters will reprise their roles.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

Netflix recruits Steve Carell for the Trump-inspired comedy ‘Space Force’

Steve Carell, Netflix, and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels are teaming up for Space Force, a workplace comedy poking fun at the Trump White House's plans to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military.