WASHINGTON – Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced a bipartisan bill to crack down on rogue websites trafficking in the sale of infringing or counterfeit goods.
The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act) narrows the definition of a rogue website, while ensuring that law enforcement can get at the “worst-of-the-worst” websites dedicated to selling infringing goods. Copyright infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods reported cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as billions of dollars in lost tax revenue for federal, state and local governments.
“With this legislation, we are sending a strong message to those selling or distributing counterfeit goods online that the United States will strongly protect its intellectual property rights,” said Hatch, former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. “Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free. Fake pharmaceuticals threaten people’s lives. Stolen movies, music and other products put many out of work. This is why protecting property rights is a critical imperative and is why we’ve come together in introducing this common-sense bill.”
The PROTECT IP Act would provide law enforcement with important tools to stop websites dedicated to online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods, which range from new movie and music releases, to pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Key updates to the PROTECT IP Act include:
- A narrower definition of an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities”;
- Authorization for the Attorney General to serve an issued court order on a search engine, in addition to payment processors, advertising networks and Internet service providers;
- Authorization for both the Attorney General and rights holders to bring actions against online infringers operating an internet site or domain where the site is “dedicated to infringing activities,” but with remedies limited to eliminating the financial viability of the site, not blocking access;
- Requirement of plaintiffs to attempt to bring an action against the owner or registrant of the domain name used to access an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities” before bringing an action against the domain name itself;
- Protection for domain name registries, registrars, search engines, payment processors, and advertising networks from damages resulting from their voluntary action against an Internet site “dedicated to infringing activities,” where that site also “endangers the public health,” by offering controlled or non-controlled prescription medication.
Online infringement legislation proposed in the last Congress was strongly supported by a broad spectrum of stakeholders and organizations, including the Newspaper Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the music, movie and television industries, authors and publishers, and anti-piracy organizations.
Leahy and Hatch introduced legislation to counter online infringement in September 2010, and in November 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the legislation. In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing examining the impact of online infringement and counterfeit sales. The PROTECT IP Act builds on the consensus legislation approved by the Committee last year, while incorporating provisions in response to concerns raised by stakeholders.
The PROTECT IP Act is cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-.R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
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