U.S. House Introduces 'Rogue Websites' Bill

WASHINGTON — U.S. House lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would crack down on rogue websites that sell pirated content.

The legislation would let the U.S. Attorney General seek court orders to block foreign websites that steal and sell U.S. products.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican.

“Rogue websites that steal and sell American innovations have operated with impunity,” Smith said. “The online thieves who run these foreign websites are out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies and profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences.”

Similar legislation was introduced and approved in May by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That legislation, backed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, would require  third parties, including "interactive computer services" and "servers of sponsored links," to block access to or stop doing business with websites suspected of piracy. They would also be required to stop linking to websites suspected of infringement.

This portion of the act would impact online companies because it would affect potentially any service or web page where a URL of a suspected infringer might turn up.

Opponents of the measure say it threatens to disrupt Internet traffic, harm legitimate websites and free speech.

“This bill, like the companion Protect IP Act pending in the Senate, will impose undue burdens upon online service providers to monitor and police user activity, and ultimately stifle free speech on the Internet,” adult industry attorney Larry Walters told XBIZ.

“While it may be appropriate to consider new approaches to protecting intellectual property in the digital age, shutting down websites based on mere allegations is inconsistent with fundamental constitutional values such as due process and freedom of expression.”