Senate Panel Passes Online Piracy Bill

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate panel passed an anti-piracy bill today that gives government agencies new powers to go after foreign websites that sell counterfeit goods and pirated content.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, approved by a 19-0 vote, targets rogue websites in countries such as China that are outside the reach of U.S. law.

The measure has the backing of several leading entertainment companies, groups and corporations. But it also has critics like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called the bill “Internet censorship” that could harm the credibility of the U.S.

The bill allows the Justice Department to seek a court order against the domain name of websites offering illegal music or movie downloads or one that sells counterfeit goods.

Once the order is obtained, Justice Department officials could shut down the site by requiring the U.S. registrar to suspend the domain name.

If the registry is located outside the U.S., the U.S. Attorney General could go after the website by requiring U.S.-based Internet service providers, payment processors and advertising networks to stop doing business with it.

Titan general counsel Gill Sperlien told XBIZ when the bill was first introduced that even though he hasn’t studied the legislation in detail, he believes it would give the government too much power.

The bill still has to be passed by Congress and then signed into law.