Darrell Issa, Chairman of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has unveiled the crowd-sourced sections of the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act at KeepTheWebOPEN.com. Internet users generated improvements to six sections of the OPEN Act, representing the first-ever legislative mark-up truly open to the American public. Issa and Senator Ron Wyden released a draft version of the OPEN Act in the Madison platform on December 8, 2011, inviting the Internet community to collaborate with Congress on strengthening intellectual property rights protections for American artists and innovators. On January 18th, Issa formally introduced the OPEN Act – including the user-generated improvements – in the US House of Representatives.
Issa said Madison had been developed to empower those shut out from the process that produced SOPA and PIPA. “It is an ongoing experiment in direct digital democracy, but the introduced version of the OPEN Act is proof that crowd-sourcing can deliver better bills and a more accountable government,” he stated.
The OPEN Act was originally created as an alternative to the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate companion, the PROTECT IP Act, which would have authorised the Department of Justice to remove online content that was alleged to infringe on US copyright. Unlike SOPA and PIPA, OPEN would install authority in the International Trade Commission to investigate claims of copyright infringement.
According to the website, more than 150 users left comments and made suggestions on the draft bill. After combing through them, Issa and his staff came up with six changes to make to the draft.
While some of the changes address structural aspects of the legislation, others deal with the technology side of the issue, a facet of the process many protesters said was missing from the SOPA and PIPA debate.
For instance, the original draft included language about the ‘Website Owner’ being charged with copyright infringement. At the prompting of a user who commented on the website, the language now includes ‘Owners or Registrant of a Domain Name‘, acknowledging that a website’s owner might not necessarily be the person to whom the domain name is registered.