Goodlatte wants more from Google on online piracy

Google general counsel Kent Walker argued his firm has done a great deal to combat online theft and piracy, such as spending more than $30 million to develop the Content IP copyright protection tool for YouTube.

He cautioned lawmakers against moving too far from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s current system of notice-and-takedown, which has been in place since 1998.

“Defining what is a rogue site is not a simple task,” Walker said in his prepared testimony. “An overbroad definition of a rogue site could easily ensnare millions of popular U.S. websites that allow users to sell goods or upload content.

Websites that respond to takedown notices and comply with the DMCA should not be deemed “rogue,” Walker said.

Walker said the DMCA struck the right balance for search engines and that expanding the law’s reach wouldn’t necessarily result in a reduction of pirated content from foreign-based sites.

“When it comes to offshore rogue sites, no one should think that imposing additional obligations on search engineers, social networks, directories, or bloggers beyond the DMCA will be a panacea,” Walker said.

“If a rogue site remains accessible on the Internet, relying on search engines to try to make it ‘unfindable’ is an impossible endeavor.”

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement director John Morton described his agency’s current efforts to seize domains used to distribute pirated or counterfeit content as part of “Operation In Our Sites.” Morton said the initiative will continue through 2011 and beyond.

Morton said ICE only seized websites after securing counterfeit goods or pirated copyrighted materials that were verified by the rights holders as counterfeit. Only after such verification did ICE apply for warrants based on probable cause.

“The standard is exactly the same as in any other criminal investigation,” Morton said.

The White House has argued ICE and the Department of Homeland Security need additional tools to pursue copyright violators, including longer prison sentences and wiretapping authority for investigators.

Walker said any legislation should be carefully targeted at foreign websites without impairing legitimate domestic technologies and innovative businesses.

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