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By this point, you may have already heard of the “Google Art Project”: Google’s latest effort to increase universal access to the world’s information. The project, which was launched on February 1st, allows internet users to remotely access works of art in seventeen museums, including the MOMA and Frick Collection in New York, the Palace of Versailles, London’s National Gallery, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The Project, which employs the same technology utilized in Google’s “Street View” feature, allows individuals to virtually “walk” the halls of galleries and provides remarkably high-resolution reproductions that permit the inspection of individual brush strokes.

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This past week, the Senate conducted hearings on the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act which, if passed, would provide the Attorney General with broad authority to shut down U.S. and foreign internet sites “dedicated to infringing activities.” The Act was introduced in September 2010 and unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee late last year; nevertheless, it has yet to receive a full vote on the Senate floor. If passed, the Act would require the U.S. Attorney General to independently investigate potentially infringing websites and submit these findings to a judicial board. The board would then determine whether the site is “dedicated to infringing activities”; if so, the government would (1) suspend operation and lock the domain name; (2) ban credit card companies and financial institutions from processing any domestic transactions related to the site; and (3) prohibit online advertisers from working with or sending traffic to the site. And, in what is perhaps the best news for copyright owners: the government would do all of this free-of-charge. Not surprisingly, then, the Act’s most ardent proponents include the RIAA, MPAA, and the Screen Actors Guild. 

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