Public Knowledge Joins Letter Opposing Internet Content Blocking by International Trade Commission

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Today, Public Knowledge and 27 other organizations, associations, and legal scholars sent a letter to the International Trade Commission opposing a recent decision that the Commission has authority to block Internet data transmissions. That decision concluded that the ITC’s authority to block the importation of copyright-and patent-infringing products extends to an ability to block Internet data transmissions into the United States.

The following may be attributed to Charles Duan, Director of the Patent Reform Project at Public Knowledge:

“The free flow of information across the Internet has been the foundation of innovation, free expression, and economic growth. So it is concerning to us that the ITC would impose itself as a barrier to that free information flow. By declaring that all digital data transfers are subject to the ITC’s purview, the Commission forces every business, small and large, who exchanges data over the Internet to contemplate the possibility of being brought before the ITC.

“Our concern was starkly heightened when we learned last December that the MPAA intends to use this ruling to force Internet Service Providers to perform website blocking. This website-blocking practice, which was rejected in the 2011 SOPA/PIPA debates, contravenes the ISP immunities embodied in the copyright statutes. It’s also bad policy overall. But the ITC’s decision to declare authority over Internet content transmissions opens the door to these troubling misuses of the ITC.

“Thus, our letter asks the ITC to rethink its position on blocking Internet content. We look forward to further conversations with the Commission and other policy officials about how the ITC’s role can be properly situated for the digital age.”

The ITC’s decision was titled In re Certain Digital Models, Investigation No. 337-TA-833, and is now on appeal to the Federal Circuit under the title ClearCorrect v. ITC.

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