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Battle Over Piracy Bills Heats Up

17 Jan, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Further changes to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, won’t come until February, the bill’s author said Jan. 17, days after the White House came out strongly against the bill in its current form.

“To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America’s intellectual property, we will continue to bring together industry representatives and members [of Congress] to find ways to combat online piracy,” House Judiciary Committee chair Lamar Smith, R-Texas, wrote announcing the February decision.

His statement came after the White House issued a lengthy explanation of its stance on both SOPA and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP, both of which are before Congress, both aiming to shutter foreign websites dealing in pirated goods.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber security risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” the White House statement reads.

The statement called for a more narrowly targeted bill, so that legal websites wouldn’t be inadvertently shut down.

Michael O’Leary, senior EVP for global policy and external affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, responded to the White House statement by saying the bills aren’t intended to strangle free expression.

“While we agree with the White House that protection against online piracy is vital, that protection must be meaningful to protect the people who have been and will continue to be victimized if legislation is not enacted,” he said. “Meaningful legislation must include measured and reasonable remedies that include ad brokers, payment processors and search engines.”

The bills would target foreign websites dealing in illegal goods by keeping advertisers from doing business with them, search engines from showing them in results, and payment companies from being hosted on the sites.

Markham Erickson, executive director of the NetCoalition, which represents dozens of Internet companies, welcomed the view presented by the White House.


“We appreciate the Administration’s recognition that our ability to innovate, invest, and grow the economy is dependent upon keeping the Internet open and free,” he said.
Meanwhile, several prominent websites, including Wikipedia and Reddit, said they would go dark on Jan. 18 to protest both bills.

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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