Sen. Leahy Introduces New Intellectual Property Theft Bill

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced a new version of a bill to protect intellectual property online, but one that narrows the definition of a rogue web site.

The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

The PROTECT IP Act, which is backed by the major studios and other online content providers, would give law enforcement more tools to go after Web sites, foreign and domestic, trafficking in pirated content like TV shows, music and movies.

The bill provides protections for Internet ad networks that voluntarily stop doing business with infringing web sites, immunizing them from damages resulting from action against those sites.

Key provisions of the bill are, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee summary (Leahy is chairman of the committee):

"A narrower definition of an Internet site ‘dedicated to infringing activities';
"Authorization for the Attorney General to serve an issued court order on a search engine, in addition to payment processors, advertising networks and Internet service providers;
"Authorization for both the Attorney General and rights holders to bring actions against online infringers operating an internet site or domain where the site is ‘dedicated to infringing activities,' but with remedies limited to eliminating the financial viability of the site, not blocking access;
"Requirement of plaintiffs to attempt to bring an action against the owner or registrant of the domain name used to access an Internet site ‘dedicated to infringing activities' before bringing an action against the domain name itself;
"Protection for domain name registries, registrars, search engines, payment processors, and advertising networks from damages resulting from their voluntary action against an Internet site ‘dedicated to infringing activities,' where that site also ‘endangers the public health,' by offering controlled or non-controlled prescription medication."

Leahy and Hatch introduced a similar bill in the last session, which passed unanimously in the committee. This one has been tweaked after discussions with stakeholders.

The Independent Film & Television Alliance, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners all praised the bill's return.

"To the camera crew, the makeup artists, the truck drivers and all the other hard-working middle-class Americans involved in the making of a motion picture or television show, digital theft means declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits for them and their families," said Michael O'Leary, EVP, government affairs at MPAA. "We want to thank Chairman Leahy, Senator Hatch and the other cosponsors for recognizing the true cost of online content theft and for seeking new tools to effectively enforce U.S. laws on the online marketplace."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.