Last week, CCIA and fifteen other tech industry and public interest groups, as a well of number of prominent legal scholars, signed a letter to the International Trade Commission (ITC) expressing concerns about its recent decision in In re Certain Digital Models, a patent case about plastic braces. In that case, which is currently pending before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the ITC found that its statutory authority to block importation of articles includes the power to block data transmissions over the Internet. The ruling surprised many observers, as the agency’s ability to ban the importation of infringing goods was not previously thought to extend to all Internet communications.
This holding is especially troubling given a memo from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that leaked after the Sony hack, which demonstrates that the movie industry is interested in using the ITC to acquire the site-blocking remedies that they had attempted to obtain via the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). After unprecedented opposition from the public and many different stakeholders and industries, Congress overwhelmingly rejected these proposed copyright laws; enacting them via an even less transparent, participatory forum is highly concerning for free speech and innovation.
The letter also discusses how this case imposes trade barriers on free flow of information, and encourages the ITC to limit its holding, including by not ordering ISPs to block websites. Press coverage of the letter included Computerworld and Slate.