Attorneys general endorse PROTECT IP Act

Backing builds support for bill aimed at piracy sites

A group of 42 attorneys general have endorsed Congressional efforts to pass an anti-piracy bill this year, bolstering Hollywood’s effort to promote the legislation despite some skepticism in the tech sector.

The officials from U.S. states and territories sent a letter Monday to the leaders of the Senate and House judiciary committees calling for legislation “to disrupt the counterfeiting and piract business model by cutting those sites off from the American marketplace.”

“This narrowly tailored response to clearly illegal activity would enable effective action against the worst of the worst counterfeiters and pirates online,” the letter stated.

The attorneys general all but gave their endorsement to a bill introduced in the Senate last week that would enable to Justice Dept. to obtain court orders requiring that payment processors, ad services, domain-name system servers and search engines cut off support for sites devoted to selling and distributing pirated content.

The bill, called the PROTECT IP Act and backed by studios, unions and guilds, is expected to garner substantial bipartisan support, even as some tech trade groups, like the Consumer Electronics Assn., express misgivings. They are concerned about one provision that allows copyright owners, not just the government, to take court action against domain names and sites under certain conditions, such as cutting off ad services and financial transactions.

CEA’s senior VP of government affairs Michael Petricone said that they fear the provision will “result in harmful litigation against legitimate entrepreneurs.” They also say that the inclusion of search engines in the bill is redundant, in that Google and others already have responsibility to address infringement via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which is among the industry orgs leading the lobbying push, launched a new blog this week, called Issues, Innovation and Creativity, including updates on the legislation. And the Copyright Alliance started a new site, Artists Against Digitial Theft, designed to mobilize the creative community in support.

Another bill introduced last week would make illegal streaming of copyrighted content a felony, bringing it in line with the criminal classification for other forms of unauthorized digital distribution.