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U.S. Senators Gunning for Illegal Websites

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A group of U.S. senators want the Department of Justice to have the power to shut down websites that provide illegal access to intellectual movies such as movies, music, software, and that unlawfully sell pharmaceuticals and counterfeit goods.

On Monday, the senators including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and committee member Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) filed legislation that will give the Department of Justice the tools necessary to track and shut down websites offering illegal products, regardless of whether they're based in the U.S. or other countries.

“The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” will give the Department of Justice an expedited process for cracking down on these rogue websites. The legislation authorizes the Justice Department to file a court order against the domain name and seek an order from the court stating that the domain name is being used to access a website that is engaging in illegal activities.

After the court issues an order against the domain name, the U.S. Attorney General would serve the website’s U.S.-based registrar with that order to shut down the illegal site.

If the website is outside the U.S., the act would allow the attorney general to serve the court order on other specified third parties including Internet service providers, payment processors, and online ad network providers.

“Each year, online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods cost American businesses billions of dollars, and result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs,” said Leahy, in a statement.

“The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act will protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments.”

The bill also provides safeguards that will let domain name owners or site operators petition the court to lift the order. It also protects against abuse by allowing only the Justice Department to initiate an action, and by giving a federal court the final say about whether a particular site would be cut off from supportive services.