20110118 online theft internet crime hacker 35
A hacker works on a computer with a skull on it, which symbolizes online crime and Internet theft. - 

Leahy introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act last year. It sailed out of committee on a unanimous vote but was derailed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who lined up with groups including the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which criticized the bill as being an ineffective and unfair measure.

Indications are that Leahy is gearing up to introduce a new version of the bill very soon. There are reports that his office has been quietly lobbying Google and various Internet service providers for their support. Verizon will reportedly be present at today's hearings; Google will not.

We speak to Senator Leahy in today's show. He says trafficking in unlicensed material on the Internet is no different than dealing in stolen goods out of a warehouse somewhere; a crime is a crime. Leahy says that he can see a scenario where the operators of a site have the right to appeal a shutdown, after the shutdown occurs. As for what would constitute reasonable cause for shutting it down, he hopes to talk about that at the hearing.

We also talk to David Sohn, senior policy counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. He says that going after criminals is important but that the focus should be on the people and not the websites. The line between what part of a site is free speech and what's illegal business is too hard to separate, he says.

Also in this program, a talk with actor and Internet bon vivant Wil Wheaton.

Follow John Moe at @johnmoe