SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 21, 2010 -- A bipartisan group of 10 US senators on Monday introduced legislation that would enable the US Justice Department to render inaccessible Web sites judged to be dedicated to intellectual property infringement.
The legislation would enable Justice to seek a preliminary injunction against domain name registrars, which would have to suspend access to the domains hosting infringing material, or that are trafficking in infringing material. The legislation would require the US attorney general to notify the federal intellectual property enforcement co-coordinator of the injunctions, and the coordinator would in turn be required to post the names of the suspended sites on a public web site.
One of the landmark aspects of the legislation is that it would give Justice the authority to order the shuttering of web sites hosted beyond US borders, but which are using US-based registrars.
This piece of legislation is the latest stab by federal authorities in the United States to address the phenomena of online piracy and counterfeiting. US officials have been locked in negotiations for the past several years with their counterparts in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia over the question of how best to combat online piracy and the international trafficking of counterfeit goods.
Federal lawmakers who are part of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy caucus this May issued a "most notorious" list of web sites that are known for their pirating actvities. They include Canada's IsoHunt, Ukraine's Mp3fiesta, China's Baidu, Luxembourg's RMX4U.com, and Germany's RapidShare.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and senior Republican committee member Orrin Hatch.
"This bill is an important step forward to help curb rampant piracy here and abroad, and protect American jobs. We look forward to working with the Senate and House Judiciary Committees and Congressional leadership on its passage," said Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman in a statement regarding the legislation.
Public Knowledge, a digital consumer rights group in Washington., DC, said that the imprecise ideas in the legislation need fine-tuning.
"We are concerned that the bill would establish an internet black list of sites that the Justice Department thinks are 'pirate' sites but against which it hasn't taken action," said Sherwin Siy, Public Knowledge's deputy legal director in a statement. "Putting an innocent site on this list could seriously harm the business of legitimate Web site operators. The remedies in the bill for those guilty until they prove themselves innocent are inadequate."
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