A defeated bill targeting websites accused of distributing copyrighted material has been reintroduced with a new name and broader powers to combat internet-based piracy.
The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act [PDF
], introduced this week, builds on last year's Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which received game industry backing
before being blocked from a floor vote by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The new bill would also allow the government to punish "rogue web sites" that distribute copyrighted material by preventing credit card payment processors, ad networks, search engines and internet service providers from working with them.
But the new bill also includes new provisions allowing for a "private right of action," allowing affected rights holders to bring cases against specific sites directly, without requiring the government to step in to prosecute.
Search engines and service providers are not subject to those private actions, but those sites are encouraged to voluntarily block sites they believe are infringing through a clause protecting them from damages if they do.
The new bill also refines the statutory definition of a site "dedicated to infringing activities," which some criticized for excess vagueness in COICA, and allows penalties to follow a site if it changes domain names.
"Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free," said bill co-sponsor Orrin Hatch (D-UT) in a statement. "Stolen movies, music, and other products put many out of work. This is why protecting property rights is a critical imperative and is why we’ve come together in introducing this common-sense bill."
But the Electronic Frontier Foundation renewed its objection
to the updated bill, stressing in particular that the provision encouraging search engines to self-censor "raises serious First Amendment concerns considering the lawful expression that may be hosted on the same domain."