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Senate panel approves bill aimed at online piracy

The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Thursday voted in favor of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) [text, PDF], which would better equip US law enforcement to combat websites engaged in the pirating of movies, television programs and music. The bill was approved [AFP report] by a vote of 19-0, and has received strong support from the entertainment industry. The bill would create a more streamlined and efficient process for the Justice Department to crack down on websites involved in piracy or the sale of counterfeit goods, even allowing for courts to order the shutdown of domains based outside the US. While the measure met no opposition in committee, it has been criticized widely by digital rights groups and it is likely to face some opposition when it goes before the full Senate or House of Representatives [official websites].

In October, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) [official website] and other participating countries released [JURIST report] a draft [text, PDF] of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [USTR backgrounder], an international pact to defend intellectual property rights from counterfeit and piracy. The draft was released after three years [JURIST report] and 10 rounds of negotiations among the ACTA parties, which include the EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Korea, representing more than 50 percent of world trade. The agreement would establish a framework for combating counterfeiting and piracy of commercial goods that encourages international cooperation as well as strong enforcement practices. Participating countries agreed to further examine the document and plan to finalize the text of the agreement as soon as possible. The agreement will undergo a final review before it is opened for signatures. Notably, China, a source of many of the world's counterfeit goods, is not a participant [Reuters report] in the agreement or discussions.

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