WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill on Thursday that clamps down on Web sites engaging in online piracy and counterfeiting by broadening the authority of the U.S. Justice Department.
This story first appeared in the May 27, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The legislation would give new tools to luxury firms and apparel brands that have already spent millions of dollars battling counterfeiters to now go after complicit Web sites.
“While the current PROTECT IP Act is a significant improvement over previous attempts at legislation to shut down rogue Web sites that sell counterfeit goods, the U.S. apparel and footwear industry believes this bill can be made stronger,” said Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “We are pleased that language has been included to allow law enforcement the ability to share information with rights holders.”
The bill cracks down on Internet sites engaging in illegal piracy and counterfeiting that are often foreign owned and operated. It would give the Department of Justice authority to file civil action in federal court against sites dedicated to selling infringing goods and services and counterfeits, and provide enhanced tools to clamp down on those sites by cutting them off from the U.S. market.
It also authorizes the U.S. Attorney General and rights holders that are victims of the infringement to bring action against a “rogue site,” whether domestic or foreign. If the court issues a cease-and-desist order, the rights holder and government are authorized to serve that order on payment processors and online advertising networks, to “cut off financial viability of the criminal activity.”
A coalition of apparel brands, retailers and industry trade groups threw their support behind the legislation in a letter sent to senators on Wednesday. In addition, AAFA, the Outdoor Industry Association and International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition are spearheading a lobbying effort for additional provisions in the yet-to-be introduced House bill and are planning to meet with members of the House Judiciary Committee here June 7 and 8.
The bill will advance to the Senate for a vote, but it is unclear whether leadership will take it up. The House is expected to introduce a companion bill in the coming weeks.