Bill Would Give Justice Department Power to Shutter Piracy Sites Worldwide
* By David Kravets Email Author
* September 20, 2010 |
* 3:33 pm |
Lawmakers introduced legislation Monday that would let the Justice Department seek U.S. court orders against piracy websites anywhere in the world, and shut them down through the sites’ domain registration.
The bipartisan legislation, dubbed the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, (.pdf) amounts to the Holy Grail of intellectual-property enforcement. The recording industry and movie studios have been clamoring for such a capability since the George W. Bush administration. If passed, the Justice Department could ask a federal court for an injunction that would order a U.S. domain registrar or registry to stop resolving an infringing site’s domain name, so that visitors to PirateBay.org, for example, would get an error message.
“In today’s global economy the internet has become the glue of international commerce –- connecting consumers with a wide array of products and services worldwide,” said Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) in a statement announcing the bill. “But it’s also become a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.”
The bill would direct injunctions at a piracy site’s domain registrar, if the registration was through a U.S. company. If not, the Justice Department could serve the court order at the registry for the site’s top-level domain. Registry’s for the dot-com, dot-net and dot-org domains are all U.S.-based, and thus within the courts’ jurisdiction. For domains not under U.S. control, the bill would demand that internet service providers in the United States block resolution of the address upon a court order, but overseas users would not be impacted.
If history is a guide, though, the bill might fail in Congress and might not even be necessary.
The Bush administration in 2008 threatened to veto the legislation that created the nation’s first copyright czar until similar, less expansive Justice Department powers were removed. At the time, the White House complained that directing the attorney general to sue copyright infringers “could result in Department of Justice prosecutors serving as pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources. In effect, taxpayer-supported department lawyers would pursue lawsuits for copyright holders, with monetary recovery going to industry.”
Things may be different under President Barack Obama. The president has tapped five former Recording Industry Association of America lawyers to key Justice Department positions. And the government, under the code name Operation in Our Sites, has recently seized the domains of at least two first-run movie sites under a process similar to the one outlined in Monday’s proposed legislation.
Bob Pisano, the Motion Picture Association of America chief executive, applauded the measure’s introduction.
“These sites, whose content is hosted and whose operators are located throughout the world, take many forms. But they have in common the simple fact that they all materially contribute to, facilitate and/or induce the illegal distribution of copyrighted works, such as movies and television programs,” Pisano said.
Mitch Bainwol, the RIAA’s chairman, welcomed the proposal.
“The trafficking of pirated American movies and music from rogue websites outside our borders is a big business,” Bainwol said. “This bill is a welcome first step toward cutting off the financial lifeline that sustains these illegal operations and threatens the livelihoods of countless members of the American music community.”
Websites eligible for Justice Department targeting — if the measure is approved — must be “dedicated to infringing activities,” according to the text’s language. A site can be “subject to civil forfeiture” if it’s “primarily designed” as a pirate site with “no demonstrable, commercially significant purpose or use” other than to distribute pirated or counterfeited wares.
The measure’s other sponsors include Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), and committee members Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota). Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) are also co-sponsors.
Read More http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/09/justice-department-piracy/comment-page-1/#ixzz13g6qWaim