U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation to address the growing problem of online piracy and counterfeiting.
"In today's global economy the Internet has become the glue of international commerce - connecting consumers with a wide-array of products and services worldwide. But it's also become a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property," said Hatch. "This legislation is critical to our continued fight against online piracy and counterfeiting. By coordinating our efforts with industry stakeholders and law enforcement officials, we'll be better able to target those who are profiting from illegal activity."
The legislation, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, will give the Department of Justice tools to track and shut down websites devoted to providing access to unauthorized downloads, streaming or sale of copyrighted content and counterfeit goods. The illegal products offered through these websites, which are often foreign-owned and operated, range from new movie and music releases, to pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Intellectual property theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion every year, according to estimates.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act will:
- Give the Department of Justice an expedited process for cracking down on websites that are dedicated to making infringing goods and services available;
- Authorize the Department of Justice to file an in rem civil action against a domain name, and seek a preliminary order from the court that the domain name is being used to traffic infringing material. The Department must publish notice of the action promptly after filing, and it would have to meet clear criteria that focus on the sites' substantial and repeated role in online piracy or counterfeiting;
- Provide safeguards allowing the domain name owner or site operator to petition the court to lift the order;
- Provide safeguards against abuse by allowing only the Justice Department to initiate an action, and by giving a federal court the final say about whether a particular site would be cut off from supportive services.
In June, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first oversight hearing with the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), Victoria Espinel. The IPEC was established by the 2008 Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act. The Coordinator chairs an inter-agency committee, and was tasked with producing a joint strategic plan to combat piracy and counterfeiting. The PRO-IP Act was designed to address intellectual property rights enforcement concerns and to protect American innovation and advancement.