Continuing The Fight Against Rogue Websites Post-SOPA

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The online firestorm that erupted over the consideration of SOPA and PIPA — the federal ant-piracy bills — effectively killed the legislation for 2012. Yet it’s imperative that the push for serious legislation addressing online piracy continue.

But, likewise, the bill’s staunchest critics had to recognize that illegal “rogue” websites undermine American intellectual property and threaten economic growth and dynamism.

Passing legislation that cuts off access to rogue sites isn’t a partisan issue  — it’s not Silicon Valley versus the entertainment industry, or creators versus consumers. It’s in everyone’s interest to shut down these web pages.

With that in mind, new anti-piracy legislation should be crafted in a consensus-driven, bipartisan fashion, incorporating the justified concerns that killed the older bills, while still retaining those core provisions needed to address the rogue site problem.

Passage of this new legislation should be a top priority for the next Congress.

Envisional, an Internet research company, has found that just about 25 percent of all web traffic violates intellectual property laws. And roughly 53 billion page visits per year flow through rogue websites.

These sites mainly sell two kinds of products: knockoffs of consumer goods like shoes, handbags and prescription drugs; and pirated media content, including illicit copies of music, movies, e-books, and computer software.

These sites can seriously hurt consumers by selling shoddy or outright dangerous products. And they hurt the American economy by undermining intellectual property (IP) protections — a crucial incentive for innovation.

Since many of these sites are based on foreign soil, they operate outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement. Congress was considering bills to provide American officials with the legal tools they need to choke off the money and traffic flowing to these sites. These bills would have authorized the Department of Justice to file a civil action against sites devoted to counterfeiting or piracy.

A crackdown on rogue websites would be especially welcomed by those industries that rely heavily on IP.