A group of senators want to hand the U.S. Department of Justice the power to shut down Web sites dedicated to the illegal sharing online of film, music, software, and other intellectual property.
The Combating Online Infringement and
Counterfeits Act will give the Department of Justice an expedited process for cracking down on these rogue Web sites regardless of whether the Web site's owner is located inside or outside of the United States, according to a statement from Senator
Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and committee member Senator Orin Hatch.
Under the proposed legislation, the Justice Department would file a civil action against accused pirate domain names. If the domain name resides in
the U.S., the attorney general could then request that the court issue an order finding that the domain name in question is dedicated to infringing activities. The Justice Department would have the authority to serve the accused site's U.S.-based
registrar with an order to shut down the site.
According to a staffer from Leahy's office, if the site resides outside the United States, the bill would authorize the attorney general to serve the court order on other specified third parties,
such as Internet service providers, payment processors, and online ad network providers.
The way it sounds, the Justice Department would try to block these sites from being accessed by people in the United States or cut them off from credit
card transactions or receiving ad revenue from U.S. companies.
The worrying IP infringement bill thankfully failed to sneak in ahead of the Senate adjournment for recess.
The change in plans should delight some of the bill's critics, at least, who expressed concern that the legislation was moving forward
The Senate Judiciary Committee now won't be considering the dangerously flawed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) bill until after the midterm elections, at least.
This is a real victory! The
entertainment industry and their allies in Congress had hoped this bill would be quickly approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with no debate before the Senators went home for the October recess.
The bill will be back soon enough though.
Under the proposed legislation, the Justice Department would file a civil action against accused pirate domain names. If the domain name resides in the U.S., the attorney general could then request that the court issue an order finding that the domain
name in question is dedicated to infringing activities. The Justice Department would have the authority to serve the accused site's U.S.-based registrar with an order to shut down the site.
19 members of the Senate Judiciary unanimously voted to move forward with the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) this week, despite a letter sent to them by a large number of law professors explaining the unconstitutionality of
COICA, and earlier protests by 96 Internet engineers, and Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Web.
However t doesn't appear it will pass through the full Senate, at least for now.
COICA targets piracy, but it is very broad in its definition
of what that means. Copyright infringement could include not just hosting torrents, downloads or streams of copyrighted materials, but also providing a link or aggregated links to other sites or Internet resources for obtaining access to such copies.
In other words, as defined, it could be interpreted that a news site that linked to The Pirate Bay or other BitTorrent site would be in violation. COICA would empower the attorney general to be able to get court orders to blacklist sites out
of the DNS (Domain Name Service) system, meaning you wouldn't be able to type in their name and reach them, on the Web. Naturally, organizations such as the MPAA and RIAA love the idea.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has announced that he was going to
take the necessary steps to stop [COICA] from passing the United States Senate. He added: It seems to me that online copyright infringement is a legitimate problem, but it seems to me that COICA as written is the wrong medicine. Deploying this
statute to combat online copyright infringement seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb when what you really need is a precision-guided missile. The collateral damage of this statute could be American innovation, American jobs, and a secure
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said: Blacklisting entire sites out of the domain name system is a reckless scheme that will undermine global Internet infrastructure and censor legitimate online speech.
noted, the bill passed out of the committee unanamously, which translates to having full bipartisan support. That's pretty unusual in these contentious political times, and points to the support of major industry organizations such as the previously
mentioned RIAA and MPAA. While probably dead for this session due to Ron Wyden's opposition, it might show up again in the next.
The Homeland Security Department's customs enforcement division has gone on a Web site shutdown spree.
To date, 82 domains have been seized after being accused of selling counterfeit goods, with products sold ranging from music, DVD box sets and
software to clothing and sporting goods.
Others linked to copyright-infringing file-sharing materials, at least one site was a Google-like search engine, causing alarm among web freedom advocates who worry the move steps over the line into
All the shut sites are now displaying a Homeland Security warning that copyright infringers can face up to five years in prison.
According to a report at TorrentFreak, the search engine that was shut down -- Torrent-Finder.com
-- neither hosted copyrighted material nor directly linked to places where it could be found. Instead, the site opened new windows to sites that did link to file-sharing materials.
Homeland Security's ability to shut down sites without a court
order evidently comes from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a Clinton-era law that allows Web sites to be closed on the basis of a copyright complaint. Critics have long assailed the DMCA for being too broad, as complainants don't need to prove
copyright infringement before a site can be taken down.
Earlier this week, Homeland Security shut down a popular hip-hop music site, RapGodfathers.com, which had nearly 150,000 members. The site claims it is compliant with copyright laws, as it
doesn't host copyrighted materials. However, its users posted links to file-hosting services such as Rapidshare and Megaupload, where copyrighted material may have been shared.
These domains are now the property of Homeland Security, writes
Gareth Halfacree at Thinq.co.uk, And there's no indication that their original owners will ever be able to get them back.
The MPAA has managed to take a dozen torrent sites offline in the United States, with help from Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN. The 12 torrent sites – which remain anonymous – were pulled offline by their hosting companies following
complaints from the two organizations.
Last November it reported some of the largest torrent sites to the US Government, including The Pirate Bay, isoHunt and BTjunkie, calling them piracy havens.
In a follow up to the many accusations, the
MPAA has now managed to shutter 12 torrent sites at once, a headline designed to send shockwaves through the BitTorrent community. But there is a catch to this unprecedented action. As often with BREIN-led takedowns, nobody noticed a thing.
BREIN head Tim Kuik explained why they target small players and why they keep the site names a secret: New sites are popping up, but we take these down faster and faster so they can't gain an audience, Kuik says. Our goal is to limit the
availability of illegal sites so people rather use legal platforms. BREIN doesn't publish any names because some sites relocate and start over elsewhere.
Two of the
Internet's biggest adult entertainment BitTorrent trackers were permanently closed down a couple of weeks ago. With comfortably more than 2.5 million members between them, the closure of Empornium and PureTNA leaves a sizeable number of porn fans both
empty handed and with nowhere to put their seeds.
The management of both Empornium and PureTNA have confirmed to TorrentFreak that they are offline permanently . Requests for elaboration were declined, so why suddenly close down?
main unconfirmed rumor to have gained traction is that due to a lack of investment in code development, both sites have been vulnerable to malicious attacks. This resulted in one or both of the sites being hacked in recent days. Rather than pump money
into the sites to prevent this happening again, their hard drives were wiped by the sites' owners to protect user privacy, or so the story goes.
The other rumor, which is circulating on the fringes of the adult entertainment industry, is that the
sites buckled under legal pressure, or at least the threat of it.