The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved bipartisan legislation (the Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act) that aims to take action against foreign sites that provide access to illegal content.
The bill is sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and 15 additional senators. Its supporters hope it will set the stage for action next year as it targets "rogue websites" in countries such as China that are outside the reach of U.S. law.
Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act amends the federal criminal code to authorize the Attorney General (AG) to commence an action for injunctive relief against a domain name used by an Internet site that is "dedicated to infringing activities," even where such a domain name is not located in the United States. It defines an Internet site that "dedicated to infringing activities" as a site that is: (1) subject to civil forfeiture; (2) designed primarily to offer goods or services in violation of federal copyright law; or (3) selling counterfeit goods. The bill requires the AG to maintain a public listing of domain names that the Department of Justice (DOJ) determines are dedicated to infringing activities but for which the AG has not filed an action. It also allows parties to petition the AG to remove such a domain name from the list and obtain judicial review of the final determination in a civil action.
The panel approved the "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act" with little time left this year for it to be passed by Congress and signed into law.
Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO, RIAA, offered the following statement on the committee?s overwhelming approval of the bill:
"We are proud to lend our voice to the chorus of supporters of this important bipartisan legislation. In a world where hackers and copyright thieves are able to take down websites, rip off American consumers and rake in huge profits operating rogue businesses built on the backs of the American creative community, the committee has taken a strong step toward fostering a more safe and secure online experience for consumers.
"With this first vote, Congress has begun to strike at the lifeline of foreign scam sites, while protecting free speech and boosting the legal online marketplace. We congratulate Chairman Leahy and Senator Hatch for their leadership on this bill and to the Senate Judiciary Committee for its action today."
Critics like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, have attacked it as "Internet censorship" that could harm the credibility of the United States as a steward of the global domain name system.