Bloomberg News

House Unveils Anti-Piracy Measure Aimed at ‘Rogue’ Websites

October 26, 2011

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. House lawmakers introduced a measure aimed at combating “rogue” websites that sell pirated content, adding momentum to efforts to curb illegal online sales of music, movies and consumer products.

The bill would let the U.S. Attorney General seek court orders to block foreign websites that steal and sell U.S. products, according to a news release posted today on the House Judiciary Committee’s website.

The measure, which also would increase criminal penalties for trafficking in counterfeit medicine and military goods, was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The bill has 12 sponsors from both parties.

“Rogue websites that steal and sell American innovations have operated with impunity,” Smith said in an e-mail. “The online thieves who run these foreign websites are out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies and profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences.”

Similar bipartisan legislation was approved in May by the Senate Judiciary Committee. That measure, backed by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and the panel’s chairman, would potentially oblige Internet-service providers, search engines, payment processors and online ad networks to block access or stop doing business with websites found to be engaging in piracy.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has said he would use a procedural move to block the Senate bill from reaching a vote, saying it “takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet.”

Disrupt the Internet

Technology industry groups objected to elements of the House measure that they said threatened to disrupt Internet traffic and harm legitimate websites.

“Those who understand how the Internet navigation system works, realize this bill is akin to trying to block phones calls by ripping a page from a phone book,” Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a Washington-based group with members including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc., said in an e-mailed statement. “Those intent on reaching infringing content online can still get there.”

The House measure was welcomed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby, and organizations including the Business Software Alliance, Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America.

“Websites that blatantly steal the creativity and innovation of American industries violate a fundamental right to property,” Thomas Donohue, chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said today in an e-mailed statement. “Operators of rogue sites threaten American jobs, endanger consumer safety, and undermine the vitality of the online marketplace.”

The bill is H.R. 3261.

--Editors: Michael Shepard, Steve Geimann

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Engleman in Washington at eengleman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net


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