The U.S. Department of Justice could have more power to shutter websites that illegally stream and sell TV shows and movies if a bill introduced yesterday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is passed by Congress.
"Each year, online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods cost American businesses billions of dollars, and result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs," said Leahy in announcing the bill. "The 'Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act' will protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments," he said. Leahy will vet the bill at a committee business meeting Sept. 23.
According to Broadcasting & Cable, the bill would give the Justice Department more power to pull the plug on U.S. sites it found to be offering "infringing content" by suspending the domain name of the offender. For sites based outside the U.S., the DOJ would be able to serve an infringement court order on ISPs and ad network providers requiring them to stop doing business with the website, by, among other things, "blocking online access to the rogue site or not processing the website's purchases."
But it would also include protections against possible overreach, including allowing only the Justice Department to initiate an action against an infringing site, and giving a federal court the final say on whether a domain would be suspended and the site operator the right to petition to have the order lifted. The Motion Picture Association of America praised the bill as a good first step, but said it would work with Leahy and others to strengthen it.
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