Senate Judiciary Committee Seeks To Combat Online Piracy with New Anti-Piracy Bill
Whether downloading a favorite song or movie, the rise of the Internet has led to the proliferation of peer-to-peer file sharing. Over the past few years, domestic and foreign governments, encouraged by Hollywood and major entertainment players, are now taking legislative action to strengthen enforcement against online piracy. For instance, in October, the negotiating countries for the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (United States included), an international treaty with the main purpose of standardizing intellectual property rights enforcement, inched closer to finalizing the agreement. While this agreement is being negotiated on an international scale, further steps are being taken to combat online piracy domestically.
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which will allow for the blocking of website domain names that engage in the sale of pirated movies and music as well as counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other goods. Spearheaded by Senator Patrick Leahy, the bill, which was introduced on September 20th, is based on the underlying reasoning that piracy in general is causing significant loss in revenue within companies across many sectors, ultimately leading to loss of jobs. Cecilia Kang, a writer for the Washington Post, recently quoted Leahy in an article where he described the purpose of the bill as “protect[ing] the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments.”
Though heavily supported by the entertainment industry, Internet giants, such as Google and Amazon, along side advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation voiced their concerns of the bill. Specifically, these organizations purport that this bill has the potential to negatively alter the Internet’s overall infrastructure by erasing entire domain names which translates website addresses into a format computers use to correspond with each other. Additionally, not only may this bill block domain names linked to lawful websites, it also has the potential to limit free speech over the Internet. Before approving the bill on Thursday morning, the Senate Judiciary considered suggestions provided by network engineers and amended the bill.
Despite these amendments, there is still concern for the burden that this may create for Internet service providers in policing websites dedicated to pirated goods. With the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval, the bill is headed to the Senate for voting.