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This bill is a welcome first step to cutting off the financial lifeline that sustains these illegal operations and threatens the livelihoods of countless members of the American music community.
—-Mitch Bainwol, RIAA

ONLINE PIRACY BILL INTRODUCED

Senate Legislation Will Allow Dept. of Justice to Shut Down Rogue Websites

Internet pirates beware.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to introduce the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, targeting those sites which offer copyrighted material on the Internet for free.


The legislation is co-sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and senior Republican member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), long a proponent of creative rights. Other Committee sponsors include heavy hitter like Herb Kohl (D-WI), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and George Voinovich (R-OH) are also cosponsors of the legislation.


The legislation will give the Dept. of Justice the tools to track and shut down websites devoted to providing access to unauthorized downloads, streaming or sale of copyrighted content and counterfeit goods.  The illegal products offered through these websites, which are often foreign-owned and operated, range from new movie and music releases, to pharmaceuticals and consumer products.  Intellectual property theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion every year, according to estimates.


“Each year, online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods cost American businesses billions of dollars, and result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs,” said Leahy.  “This proposed bill will protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments.  Protecting intellectual property is not uniquely a Democratic or Republican priority it is a bipartisan priority.”

The RIAA’s Mitch Bainwol was also predictably pleased:  “This bill is a welcome first step to cutting off the financial lifeline that sustains these illegal operations and threatens the livelihoods of countless members of the American music community.  While improvements can be made to strengthen its effectiveness, this bill is a good start and we applaud Chairman Leahy, Senator Hatch and other co-sponsors for casting a spotlight on a critically needed reform and for their continued leadership in protecting American ingenuity and creativity.”


The bill’s introduction comes amid increased calls from within the music industry for legislation to control “free” sites like Pirate Bay and others that traffic in copyrighted material.


U2 manager Paul McGuinness contributes an Op Ed piece to the current issue of Rolling Stone calling for Internet Service Providers to target illicit downloading of content, which mirrors the ongoing industry Music Rights Now letter-writing campaign.


Among the bill’s provisions:

  • Give the DOJ an expedited process for cracking down on websites that are dedicated to making infringing goods and services available;
  • Authorize them to file an in rem civil action against a domain name, and seek a preliminary order from the court that the domain name is being used to traffic infringing material.  The Dept. must publish notice of the action promptly after filing, and it would have to meet clear criteria that focus on the sites’ substantial and repeated role in online piracy or counterfeiting;
  • Provide safeguards allowing the domain name owner or site operator to petition the court to lift the order;
  • Provide safeguards against abuse by allowing only the Justice Department to initiate an action, and by giving a federal court the final say about whether a particular site would be cut off from supportive services.

Leahy and Hatch have been longtime partners in advancing intellectual property legislation in the Senate.  They are the authors of the Patent Reform Act, which would make the first major updates to the nation’s patent system in more than 55 years. 


In June, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first oversight hearing with the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), Victoria Espinel.  The IPEC was established by the 2008 Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act.  The Coordinator chairs an inter-agency committee, and was tasked with producing a joint strategic plan to combat piracy and counterfeiting.  The PRO-IP Act was designed to address intellectual property rights enforcement concerns and to protect American innovation and advancement. 

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act will be added to the Judiciary Committee’s agenda for a business meeting scheduled for Thursday (9/23).

 

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