Friday, November 19, 2010

Senate Considers Anti Internet Counterfeiting and Theft Bill

By Alan Smithee

Patrick Leahy
The Senate is considering legislation to combat Internet counterfeiting that has pits Hollywood and television networks against Web giants Amazon, Google and Yahoo.  The legislation seeks to determine how law enforcement authorities should prevent digital theft. The bill, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) with the backing of 17 senators, would allow law enforcement to take down the domain names of the most egregious copyright offenders.

The music, movie, television industries, U.S. Chamber, Hollywood and artists have supported the bill, believing that counterfeiting of their products will not stop unless there are stronger sanctions in place. Existing rules have done little to curb counterfeiting and piracy.

Internet networking engineers and privacy advocates are joined in opposing the measure by companies such as eBay, Amazon.com, Bloomberg, Google and Wikipedia. NetCoalition, a group that represents those Web firms, expressed concern that the Justice Department could go after infringing Web sites by forcing partners -- the order domain name system servers, financial transaction providers and advertising networks -- to discontinue services to the illegal site. The practice, "raises a host of questions that necessitate thorough review.  NetCoalition believes the courts are best suited to oversee the global Internet.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that helped organize an opposition letter by 89 engineers, objects to the bill because it requires a takedown of domain names by law enforcement without first getting a court order.  The also believe that by taking out entire domain names and making them vanish off the Internet, that domain name can have a huge amount of stuff on it that is non infringing and should be protected speech. (Wash Post, 11/18/2010)

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