Lawmakers renew push for “rogue websites” bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress on Monday vowed to pass legislation giving the U.S. Justice Department new authority to go after foreign and domestic websites that sell pirated music and movies and counterfeit goods.

“Online infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods cost American creators, producers, and businesses billions of dollars and results in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, told reporters.

Intellectual property theft is “one of the greatest threats to our economy today” because of the big role that copyrights, patents and trademarks play in boosting U.S. exports and productivity, said House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Republican.

“If we’re going to have a healthy economy, we need to have a healthy IP sector,” Smith said.

Leahy said he would push forward with a new version of a “rogue websites” bill that cleared his committee last year by a vote of 19-O but did not get a vote in the full Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a second hearing this week on the issue, with the goal of crafting its own legislation, Smith said.

“I think with the leadership of both chairmen we’re going to get a bill to the president’s desk,” Leahy said.

Many websites selling pirated and fake goods operate out of China, although lawmakers said their efforts were not aimed at any particular country.

U.S. labor and business groups backed the renewed push.

“Too few people who download entertainment illegally recognize that they are stealing wages and benefits from workers,” said Paul Almeida, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation’s department for professional employees.

The Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center estimates piracy and counterfeiting have stolen 2-1/2 million jobs over the years, largely due to websites which a recent report said receive over 53 billion visits a year.

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