Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fighting piracy


Cyber Monday shoppers looking to score NFL jerseys, DVDs or fancy handbags [had] a better chance of getting the genuine article, after federal enforcement agencies spent Black Friday taking control of 150 websites reputed to deal in counterfeit goods.

As part of the ongoing Operation in Our Sites, the Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized control of the sites’ domain names in the largest crackdown to date on online knockoffs, the department said in announcing the crackdown.

The domain name servers for the sites — the majority of them selling bogus NFL and other sports gear, along with some offering DVDs, UGG boots, Louis Vuitton bags and other goods — were switched to seizedservers.com, a server run by ICE. Many of the sites were registered to people in China, the Register reported.

That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that in this fight against piracy, there is much more far-reaching legislation proposed.


The Stop Online Piracy Act... In part a companion bill to the Senate’s "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act," (Protect IP), the bill could punish Web companies that host unauthorized copyrighted content such as movies, songs or software.

Critics of the legislation say that it could increase lawsuits against Web companies or give the government too much power to shut down sites for hosting the content.

Who is for/against it?:... The Motion Picture Association of America is, unsurprisingly, one of the lead voices supporting the bill, but it is joined by allies from the pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, yes, even the International Association of Firefighters, who say that piracy saps the tax dollars that support emergency services.

The list of opponents is even more varied, from Web firms such as Google (which has made a huge push against the bill) to progressive rights groups who say the bill could stifle free expression online to tea party activists who say that the measure gives far too much business-strangling power to the government...

SOPA, critics say, goes even further than the Protect IP Act, because it grants the government even broader powers to go after Web sites hosting copyrighted content. Internet openness group Public Knowledge said that "SOPA is significantly worse than its Senate cousin" because it lowers the barriers to who can be considered liable for IP theft, saying that sites that don’t do enough to prevent piracy — such as search engines — can also be held liable for infringement.

How big of a problem is piracy?: Setting aside the debate of how it should be legislated, there’s evidence that online piracy is a serious financial problem for the country. The Chamber of Commerce estimates that U.S. companies lose $135 billion a year to counterfeiting and piracy.

Just how far should the fight against piracy go? What is the balance between law enforcement and government overreach?

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