House members introduce ‘draconian’ bill to thwart online piracy
The House Judiciary Committee unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier to shut down websites suspected of violating copyright laws.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) expands protections for America’s intellectual property and combats the illegal distribution of counterfeit goods on the Internet, according to the bipartisan group of lawmakers who authored it.
One of the provisions of the bill allows Attorney General to seek injunctions against foreign websites that pirated U.S. movies and TV shows.
But Internet freedom advocates warned other provisions in the legislation were “overbroad” and “draconian.”
“The new House legislation is an unwarranted expansion of government power to protect one special interest,” Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said in a statement.
“The bill would overturn the long-accepted principles and practices of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice and takedown process in favor of a one-sided enforcement mechanism that is far more broad than existing law while not attempting to protect the rights of anyone accused of copyright infringement.
The Stop Online Piracy Act would allow the government and rights holders to disable the credit card processors of sites they claim are violating copyright laws. It also would require Internet service providers to “take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access” to sites deemed rogue.
“In addition, anyone who writes about, or links to, a site suspected of infringement could also become a target of government action,” Sohn added. “The bill also features the now well-known dangers to the engineering of the Internet domain-name system (DNS), endangering Internet security while requiring Internet Service Providers and search engines to take on vast new responsibilities to block access to suspected sites.”
The legislation is a companion bill to the controversial PROTECT IP Act, which is currently stuck in the Senate after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) placed a hold on the bill in May.
“I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective,” Wyden said in a statement.
Both bills are supported by businesses and organizations across the political spectrum, from labor unions to the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, to the National Association of Broadcasters and the cable industry.
Photo credit: Joi Ito