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Congress

Senate Judiciary Schedules Online Piracy Hearing

February 8, 2011

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that it would be holding a hearing February 16 on websites that infringe intellectual property and ways to combat those who offer pirated content and counterfeit products online.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced legislation in the last Congress, which was approved by his committee in November, that aimed to combat online piracy and counterfeiting from foreign websites by among other things allowing the Justice Department to seek a court order to revoke the domain names belonging to foreign websites engaged in piracy or counterfeiting. Leahy has said he will reintroduce the bill again.

Federal authorities led by the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency have been using current laws to go after some websites engaged in piracy or that offer counterfeit products.

"Congress can take action to complement these efforts by passing legislation to curb online intellectual property theft," Leahy said in a statement. "This is neither a Republican nor a Democratic priority. It is another essential part of our efforts to strengthen and protect our nation's economy."

The ICE website crackdown and Leahy's legislation have been criticized by some tech groups and privacy advocates who argue such approaches undermine legitimate speech and also give foreign regimes that want to stifle political opponents an excuse to shut down websites they don't like. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is among the lawmakers who have been critical of both the Leahy bill and the ICE crackdown known as "Operation In our Sites."

The committee said it would release a list of witnesses expected to testify at next week's later this week.

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