Annemarie Bridy


Internet payment blockades are an attempt to enforce intellectual property rights by “following the money” that flows to online merchants who profit from piracy and counterfeiting. Where corporate copyright and trademark owners failed in the legislature and the judiciary to create binding public law requiring payment processors like MasterCard and Visa to act as intellectual property enforcers, “non-regulatory” intervention from the executive branch secured their cooperation as a matter of private ordering. The resulting voluntary best practices agreement prescribes a notice-and-termination protocol that extends the reach of U.S. intellectual property law into cyberspace, to merchants operating “foreign infringing sites.” It also privatizes the adjudication of infringement claims, raising issues of fairness and institutional competence. Like other forms of regulation by online intermediaries, payment blockades are subject to circumvention through disintermediation. Marrying peer-to-peer (P2P) technology with financial transactions, P2P virtual currencies like Bitcoin allow online merchants and their customers to work around payment blockades.

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