Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and others in the Senate on Thursday introduced a bill targeting online piracy, particularly so-called rogue websites that offer movies, TV shows and other copyrighted or trademarked content illegally instead of properly licensing content.
The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act), as it is known, has been supported by a broad coalition of entertainment industry groups.
Under the Act, foreign websites, formerly operating outside the realm of U.S. law, would no longer be allowed to exploit U.S. Internet service providers, payment processors, search engines and ad placement services, among others, "to sustain their illicit online businesses," industry groups said in a statement.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also sponsored the bill.
The House of Representatives has also been working on a version of the legislation.
New MPAA head Chris Dodd in his recent inaugural speech mentioned rogue sites as a key threat.
The MPAA, the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) praised the Senate move. They said they are working closely with a wider coalition of entertainment union workers and organizations, businesses and labor groups involved in the production, sale and distribution of creative content.
"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, executive vp, government affairs at the MPAA. "We look forward to working with the Senate Judiciary Committee and in the House, chairman Lamar Smith and other leaders who are drafting their own bill to target rogue websites to ensure that the final legislation passed by both chambers and presented to the President provides adequate online protection of the American film and television community, an industry that supports 2.4 million American jobs."
A group of politicians from both parties had in October unveiled a proposal to combat the theft and distribution of illegal digital movies and TV shows on the Internet, but action was delayed until after last year's elections.
The MPAA has said that rogue sites include sites that offer streaming or downloadable copyrighted content or link to "a torrent or other metadate file that initiates piracy."