Sinking the online pirates: A U.S. bill seeks to crack down on foreign bootlegging websites. But are its provisions too sweeping?

Imagine having a nemesis who assaults you daily (often mocking you as it does) yet somehow stays beyond the reach of the law. That’s a rough approximation of the entertainment industry’s view of online piracy — particularly the kind practiced by the likes of Sweden’s The Pirate Bay, Latvia’s mp3fiesta and a growing number of websites that stream bootlegged movies and TV shows from digital lockers. Such sites exist almost exclusively to promote illegal downloading or streaming of movies, music, video games and software, making money through advertisements or even by selling unauthorized copies of the works themselves.Copyright holders have shut down some offending sites through civil suits and federal investigations, but these cases have taken years to complete. Meanwhile, new sites and services have emerged to replace the shuttered ones, and the amount of copyright infringement has increased over the years as broadband connections have proliferated.

Some critics have complained that the Leahy bill isn’t targeted narrowly enough, so it conceivably could be used against sites that provide a useful outlet for legitimate content distributors in addition to bootleggers. Another criticism is that the bill wouldn’t give offending sites a fair chance to defend themselves. In fact, the Justice Department wouldn’t even have to inform the actual operator of the site before obtaining an injunction against it — it would simply have to send a notice to whoever is listed as the domain name’s registrant.,0,7950612.story

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