On May 7, 2013, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that aims to protect U.S. companies from the theft of their intellectual property by blocking the importation of goods made from stolen information. Democratic Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) joined together with Republicans John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) to introduce the bill.
The Deter Cyber Theft Act, S. 884, requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to compile an annual report on foreign economic and industrial espionage in cyberspace and develop a watch list of foreign countries. The DNI report would include a list of countries that engage in commercial espionage against the United States; a list of U.S. technologies being targeted; a list of items produced using the stolen information; a list of foreign companies or state-owned firms that benefit from the theft; and actions taken by the DNI and other federal agencies to combat industrial and economic espionage in cyberspace.
The legislation gives the President the authority to block the importation of any products containing stolen U.S. property, targeting those who are attempting to unfairly and illegally benefit at the expense of America's interests.
With reports of cyber-crimes on the upswing, the issue has become a hot-button topic and one of the few issues which Members of Congress seem to agree urgently needs to be addressed. General Keith Alexander, head of the U.S. National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, recently referred to cyber theft as the "greatest transfer of wealth in history." Senator Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, pointed to China as "by far" the largest threat against U.S. companies. A charge which is supported by a Department of Defense report sent to Congress last week.
Upon introducing the bill, the sponsors recognized the huge economic impact of these crimes. U.S. companies investing billions every year in research and development only to have their intellectual property stolen by foreign companies and nations who then use it to compete against them. Senator Levin stressed the need to protect American business and innovation, fight back against these cyber-crimes, and "hit the thieves where it hurts most" by blocking imports of products from companies that benefit from this theft.