By : Chris Tribbey | Posted: 18 Nov 2010
A bipartisan bill that would give federal law enforcement more tools to shut down websites offering pirated content was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee Nov. 18, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), goes after domestic and international sites that offer pirated material, covering both digital and physical goods. If approved, it would allow federal law enforcement to issue temporary restraining orders and cease and desist orders against domain names used by Internet sites “dedicated to infringing activities.”
“The Internet serves as the glue of international commerce in today’s global economy,” Hatch said in a statement. “But it’s also been turned into a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.
“This legislation will help in our continued fight against online piracy and counterfeiting. Allowing industry stakeholders and law enforcement officials to better coordinate their efforts will allow us to better target those who are profiting from this illegal and costly activity.”
The bill does include safeguards, allowing domain name owners and site operators to petition the court to lift the order. But lawmakers were clear that the bill would target sites that shouldn’t exist in the first place.
“Rogue websites are essentially digital stores selling illegal and sometimes dangerous products,” Leahy said in a statement. “If they existed in the physical world, the store would be shuttered immediately and the proprietors would be arrested. We cannot excuse the behavior because it happens online and the owners operate overseas. The Internet needs to be free, not lawless.”
The news comes just days after reports that a sizeable chunk of Warner's latest “Harry Potter” film had been leaked online on the file-sharing network BitTorrent. Leahy’s office estimates that intellectual property theft costs the American economy more than $100 billion a year.
“These rogue sites exist for one purpose only: to make a profit using the Internet to distribute the stolen and counterfeited goods and ideas of others,” said Bob Pisano, president and interim CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. “The economic impact of these activities — millions of lost jobs and dollars — is profound. That‘s why dozens of labor organizations and businesses groups have come together to support the bill approved today by the Judiciary Committee.”
“As part of a wide-ranging coalition of workers and businesses whose jobs and financial health have been placed at risk by content theft, we commend Sens. Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch for their leadership on this bill.”
The Independent Film & Television Alliance, which represents more than 150 independent production and distribution companies, also came out in support of the news.
“This bill is important to the independent film and television industry, since it provides new tools with which the Department of Justice can efficiently track and shut down websites devoted to offering unauthorized and illegal content.” said IFTA president and CEO Jean M. Prewitt. "The Senators are to be commended for today's unanimous and bipartisan message that American innovation and creation will be protected so that further intellectual property can be financed, created and legitimately offered to the public.”
The Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, among others, have also come out in favor of the bill.