Revamped federal legislation would authorize the Department of Justice to go after Websites hosting, selling and distributing copyrighted content, including pirated software.
A new bill to give the
federal government the power to shut down Websites "dedicated to infringing
activities," is currently making the rounds in the U.S. Senate. The bill, if
passed, would give the government the power to shut down piracy sites.
"Preventing Real Online
Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property" or PROTECT
, is a revised version of the controversial "Combating Online Infringement
and Counterfeits Act," or COICA, that was introduced and killed last year.
The revised legislation
would allow the government to obtain court orders to require ISPs, search
engines, ad networks and online payment processors to stop supporting sites
with pirated content.
The Patriot IP act, which a
bipartisan group of 11 senators introduced May 12, would allow the government
to bring lawsuits against piracy sites and force search engines like Google and
Bing from displaying links to those sites in their results pages.
"Both law enforcement and
rights holders are currently limited in the remedies available to combat Websites
dedicated to offering infringing content and products," said Sen. Patrick Leahy
of Vermont, the bill's main sponsor.
Unlike the ill-fated COICA,
PROTECT IP defines targeted sites narrowly and would target sites selling or
distributing counterfeit goods online, including fake pharmaceuticals, music
"This bill has a new
name, but it's mostly more of the same," Sherwin Siy, deputy legal
director of Public
, wrote on the group's blog. Siy was concerned that the bill, as
written, would still give the government the power to take action against sites
that aren't actually hosting pirated content, but are just seen to "enable or
The Justice Department would
also be able to get injunctions to force Internet service providers to turn off
DNS, or Domain Name System, services to these sites, effectively making them
inaccessible in the U.S. The injunctions wouldn't affect international
providers, so the sites would still be accessible abroad.
Domain Name Systems allow
users to type in the name instead of the actual IP address of the server to
access the site.
The ability to sue the
piracy sites wouldn't be just restricted to the U.S. attorney general, as
rights holders would be able to sue to stop such sites from making money. The
rights holder can't sue to block access under the bill. The lawsuit also has to
be against the actual owner or operator of the Website, not just the domain
Domain name registries,
registrars, search engines, payment processors and ad networks would be
protected if they take action against the offending site.
said it was "no less dismayed" by the updated
bill. The clause that would allow the government to prevent search engines from
linking to sites could also impact social-networking sites like Facebook and
Twitter or "potentially any service or Web pages where a URL might turn up,"
the group wrote on its Deeplinks blog.
"necessary tools" to fight "illegal, parasitic Websites that steal the hard
work of millions and expose innocent users to a spectrum of significant, real-world
dangers," said Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom. He claimed more
than 140,000 jobs have been lost across the entertainment industry due to
A recent report by the Business
conservatively estimated that software piracy cost
companies $59 billion in lost revenue in 2010.