Bloomberg News

Lawmakers Offer Alternative to Google-Opposed Online Piracy Bill

December 07, 2011

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. lawmakers are circulating an alternative approach to anti-piracy legislation opposed by Internet companies including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.

Under the draft proposal from a bipartisan group of Senate and House members, U.S. rightsholders could petition the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate foreign websites accused of trafficking in pirated content and counterfeit goods. The commission is an independent agency set up to protect U.S. markets from unfair trade practices.

“We’re going to be able to handcuff the bad actors that are selling fake movies and Viagra,” Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who helped draft the proposal, said in an interview. “This is a model that gets us a chance to go after them without doing so much damage to the architecture of the Internet.”

Anti-piracy bills in the House and Senate have pitted the nation’s biggest Internet companies against the U.S. film and music industries, which want the government to do more to halt the online sale of goods such as knockoff watches and illegally copied music. Web companies say the proposed legislation would require them to police the Internet, undermining the growth of the U.S. technology industry.

The House bill would let the U.S. attorney general seek court orders requiring U.S. Internet-service providers, search engines, payment processors and ad networks to block or cease business with websites linked to online piracy. The measure, introduced in October by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, also would give rightsholders ways to compel payment and ad services to sever ties with such websites.

Trade Agency Role

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved in May a similar bill, S. 968, known as the Protect IP Act. Both the House and Senate measures have multiple co-sponsors from both parties. Wyden has threatened to block the Protect IP Act from reaching a vote in the full Senate.

Under the alternative proposal, the International Trade Commission would be authorized to issue cease-and-desist orders against foreign websites that could be used to force payment processors, such as Visa Inc. or PayPal Inc., and online advertising networks to cease providing services to such websites.

The trade agency has the power to block imports of products found to infringe intellectual property rights, can propose tariffs on products to counter subsidized imports and investigates trade-related issues for Congress and the president.

Wyden said the group intends to circulate the draft and request feedback, and introduce legislation in the coming weeks.

The alternative proposal was signed by 10 lawmakers from both parties, including Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington and Mark Warner of Virginia; Republican Representatives Darrell Issa of California and Jason Chaffetz of Utah; and Democratic Representatives Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren of California.

The House 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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