'Rogue websites' bill introduced

2011-10-27 14:45

Washington - US lawmakers introduced a bill that would give US authorities more tools to crack down on websites accused of piracy of movies, television shows and music and the sale of counterfeit goods.

The Stop Online Piracy Act has received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and is the House version of a bill introduced in the Senate in May known as the Theft of Intellectual Property Act or Protect IP Act.

The legislation has received the backing of Hollywood, the music industry, the Business Software Alliance, the National Association of Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce and other groups.

But it has come under fire from digital rights and free speech organisations for allegedly paving the way for US law enforcement to unilaterally shut down websites, including foreign sites, without due process.

House Judiciary Committee chair Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, said the bill "helps stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators".


"Rogue websites that steal and sell American innovations have operated with impunity," Smith said in a statement.

"The online thieves who run these foreign websites are out of the reach of US law enforcement agencies and profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences," he said.

"The bill prevents online thieves from selling counterfeit goods in the US, expands international protections for intellectual property, and protects American consumers from dangerous counterfeit products," Smith said.

Howard Berman, a Democrat from California who co-sponsored the legislation, said it is "an important next step in the fight against digital theft and sends a strong message that the United States will not waiver in our battle to protect America's creators and innovators."

The House Judiciary Committee is to hold a hearing on the bill on November 16.

The Washington-based Centre for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said the House bill "raises serious red flags".

"It includes the most controversial parts of the Senate's Protect IP Act, but radically expands the scope," the CDT said in a statement.

"Any website that features user-generated content or that enables cloud-based data storage could end up in its crosshairs.

"Internet Service Providers would face new and open-ended obligations to monitor and police user behaviour," the CDT said.

"Payment processors and ad networks would be required to cut off business with any website that rights holders allege hasn't done enough to police infringement.

"The bill represents a serious threat to online innovation and to legitimate online communications tools," it said.

The Obama administration has come in for some criticism for shutting down dozens of "rogue websites" over the past year as part of a crackdown known as "Operation in Our Sites".

US authorities in November, for example, shut down 82 websites selling mostly Chinese-made counterfeit goods, including golf clubs, Walt Disney movies, handbags and other items.

  • goyougoodthing - 2011-10-27 15:04

    Interesting. It protects the big players. Rather remove syndication and have all shows, music, etc available online. DSTV in SA is a rip off yet there is no alternative. I watch what I can online purely because it isn't available here. In terms of software, move away from big names and into cloud software and open source versions of things such as photoshop, office etc. Stop the monopoly!

      Skia - 2011-10-28 08:40

      unfortunately there is no alternative to photoshop. i wish there was but adobe has set the bar very high and no one seems to come close. photoshop and indesign are unmatched by anything cheaper.

  • DrCyanide - 2011-10-27 16:43

    oh goody! a new challange to be sneared at and smeared!

  • John - 2011-10-27 17:35

    In a "global economy" one would expect content to be available all over the globe, however this is not the case. If one wants to buy music (even though it's not available in SA) off Amazon one is prompted with a message that this facility in not available in your country. A person I know downloaded a series that is not available in SA and got an email stating he pirated the episode, which technically he did. In the email it stated three websites where one can watch the series for $2 an episode which is a reasonable price. I went to each of those sites only to be told the content is not available in my region. Until they can sort out licensing to make content truly global then piracy will flourish.

      goyougoodthing - 2011-10-27 17:43

      Exactly my point John. I would gladly pay to watch the things I download. I don't download them because they are free, I download them because I want to watch them. R20 an episode for stuff I want is no worries.

  • Sam - 2011-10-28 08:42

    The US government is nothing but a puppet for corporate America.

  • gys.stroh - 2011-10-28 09:41

    I know a guy that pays his TV license but have no tv, dstv, or radio in his house. He says he pays his tv feels this gives him the right to download want he wants to watch. I tend to agree with him. If the SABC spend our money correctly, they might be able to give dstv a run for theirs. Why dont we have a good service provider that give us the flexibility and options Cable tv have in other countries?

  • ludlowdj - 2011-10-28 10:11

    The simple truth is that the US as the world is powerless to stop the illegal practices, and will never be able to secure the net to their liking. anything produced can be reproduced by reverse engineering. as soon as a new solution is implemented hackers start to break its code. The implementation of new encryption technology outside of main stream business also ensures US inability to access sites, as has been seen with RIM and their encrypted Blackberry network. At best the US is succeed in stopping a few of the smaller suppliers, but they will not have any effect on mainstream networks. Just because you make something hack proof doesn't mean they aren't going to hack it.

  • Michael - 2011-11-02 09:03

    "Piracy not a big deal!? Lars Ulrich wanted to buy 10 jets and now he can only buy 9!! Now you tell me if that sounds like it's not a big deal to you!?" - South Park

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