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US Anti-Piracy Bills Delayed

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

25 January 2012

Following protests in the United States, current discussions in Congress on the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) have been postponed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively.

The current drafts of the bipartisan anti-online piracy legislation aim to crack down on rogue websites dedicated to providing access to unauthorized downloads, streaming or sale of copyrighted content and counterfeit goods, ranging from new entertainment releases to pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Those websites are often foreign-owned and operated, and therefore outside of American jurisdiction.

Supporters of the parallel bills include television networks, music publishers, the film industry and book publishers, but opposition from within the internet sector has been growing since they were first drafted.

The legislation would provide the US Department of Justice with an expedited process for cracking down on websites accused of "enabling or facilitating" piracy. There would be an authorization for the serving of an issued court order on search engines, payment processors, advertising networks and internet service providers.

Within the bills, remedies would be limited to eliminating the financial viability of the site. However, although a previous stipulation in the proposed legislation that access to the websites should be blocked by using the Domain Name System has been deleted, internet companies still fear that they would be forced to police web content.

There have therefore been comments that the bill's sponsors have not understood the internet's architecture or comprehended the bills’ real implications. In a statement, Google said that it opposed the bills that asked “American companies to censor the internet”, while a statement from Wikipedia expressed the opinion that the bills, if passed, “would be devastating to the free and open web”.

Following such opposition, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has now confirmed that the Committee would postpone consideration of the SOPA, until there is wider agreement on a solution.

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” he said. However, he also added that “the problem of online piracy is too big to ignore”, and that, given “theft of America’s intellectual property costs the US economy more than USD100bn annually … Congress cannot stand by and do nothing.”

He confirmed that “the Committee will continue work with copyright owners, internet companies and financial institutions to develop proposals that combat online piracy and protect America’s intellectual property. We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how best to address this widespread problem.”

In like manner, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D- Nevada), while disclosing that he has postponed a vote on the PIPA, said that "there is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. … We must take action to stop these illegal practices.”

TAGS: compliance | business | commerce | law | intellectual property | copyright | internet | e-commerce | legislation | United States | regulation

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