Washington, D.C., United States (AHN) - Congress heard witnesses make suggestions Tuesday on how to stop illicit Web sites that sell pirated movies, music, software and other copyrighted material.
Industry officials said Internet pirates are stealing their revenue, hurting their industry and depriving Americans of jobs.
"Enormous profits can be made in trafficking stolen movies," Frederick Huntsberry, chief operating officer of Paramount Pictures, told the House Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property, competition and the Internet.
The subcommittee is considering legislation that would force Internet service provider companies to block "rogue" Web sites that traffic in stolen material or goods.
A first draft of a bill the subcommittee is writing defines a rogue Web site as one that "has no demonstrable or significant commercial purpose or use other than to offer goods or services in violation of [copyright law]…"
Currently, the only way victims can recover revenue pirated through the Internet is to ask for police assistance. When the pirates are located abroad, foreign police rarely are willing to protect the rights of Americans, according to witnesses at the hearing.
Huntsberry used a closed circuit television to display one page on Google that listed 10 Web sites offering movies over streaming video. Five of the Web sites were illegal.
He also said that within six months after Paramount Pictures released its movie Iron Man 2, it had been dubbed into 12 languages by pirates who offered it to customers over the Internet.
Already, revenue diverted to pirates is reducing the funds movie companies can spend on new productions, Huntsberry said.
"We have seen dramatic reductions in the number of movies produced," he said.
Daniel Castro, senior analyst for the public policy group Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, estimated that 750,000 American jobs have been lost because of rogue Web sites.
"Sometimes it's even easier to find pirated content on the Internet than legitimate content," Castro said. "We need to change the equation."
He suggested the U.S. government set up a group to monitor the Internet for rogue Web sites.
When they are found, Internet service providers like Google, Yahoo and MSN could be ordered to block the Web sites' transmissions through their computer servers, he said.
Castro also said the U.S. government should work more diligently through international agencies to get foreign governments to crack down on rogue Web sites.
Maria A. Pallante, the U.S. acting register of copyrights, suggested "starving" rogue Web sites by blocking payments for their ad revenue or through credit card and PayPal transactions.
"Mechanisms that follow the money may be effective in shutting down some rogue businesses and reducing the harm to some American markets," she said.
However, she warned that the government should avoid excessive suppression of the Internet, which civil rights advocates say could trample free speech.
Instead, "relief should be effective but narrowly tailored," Pallante said.
Other witnesses have appeared recently before the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge Congress to act quickly to protect their work. They have included author Scott Turow and the chief executive officer of the foreign language instruction company Rosetta Stone.
At the hearing Tuesday, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) said, "Online robbery is more of a threat now than armed robbery ever was."