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Congress

Officials Detail Ease Of Online Content Theft

September 14, 2011

As copyright and trademark owners continue to make their case for stronger laws to go after online pirates and counterfeites, a top executive with Paramount Pictures detailed Wednesday how easy it is for users to find and stream movies and other content online.

With four clicks, Paramount's chief operating officer Frederick Huntsberry pulled up a new movie and began streaming it at a a symposium on online intellectual property theft hosted by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

Huntsberry was detailing the growth of "cyber lockers," where pirated movies, music and other content are stored and shared. He said not only do these sites offer recent releases, but they make profits by offering subscriptions or through advertisements.

One of the sites Huntsberry pulled up was solarmovie.eu, which indicates the site is likely based in Europe. The site offered links to files of several recently released movies such as "Bad Teacher" and the latest Harry Potter film.

Huntsberry and federal officials said current law can help them shut down such sites if they are in the United States or are linked to the United States in some way. For example if a site uses a U.S.-based company to register its domain name, U.S. officials can seize the domain name. So far, federal customs and Justice Department officials have seized 142 domain names in six separate crackdowns under their "Operation in Our Sites" effort, which is focused on shutting down websites engaged in piracy and counterfeiting.

"Not all the sites are going away but it is making an incremental impact," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Brown, who noted that more than 80 sites have voluntarily shut down since federal officials began conducting the operations.

"On foreign-based websites, we have absolutely no tools at our disposal, nothing available to us," Huntsberry said.

This is why Paramount and other movie studios, record companies, trademark owners and others have been pushing lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass legislation that would give them more tools to go after foreign websites that offer pirated content or counterfeit goods. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved such legislation in May and House Judiciary Committee leaders are set to introduce their own version of the legislation at the end of this month or in early October, a spokeswoman said.

Some tech firms, entrepreneurs, Internet engineers and others oppose the legislation, saying it could stifle innovation and free speech and undermine trust in the Internet's domain name system.

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