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Oregon Senator Wyden freezes second Internet censorship bill

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, May 27, 2011 10:32 EDT
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A U.S. Senator from Oregon has once again taken a stand against his own party to defend what he sees as the inherent right to free speech on the Internet, placing a hold on a bill that could force search engines and Internet service providers to block websites deemed to be “infringing” on copyrights.

The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act — or “PROTECT IP” for short was part of a second attempt to pass provisions of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which failed to clear Congress during its last session thanks to a parliamentary maneuver by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

And once again, Wyden has stepped forward to ensure those measures do not pass.

“In December of last year I placed a hold on similar legislation, commonly called COICA, because I felt the costs of the legislation far outweighed the benefits,” he said in a prepared statement. “After careful analysis of the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, I am compelled to draw the same conclusion.”

“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 added.

Internet freedom advocates claim the proposed laws could be used to shut down websites that link to other websites that authorities claim to be carrying out infringing activities. Internet advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation said it was “no less dismayed by this most recent incarnation than we were with last year’s draft.”

The PROTECT IP Act was 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.

It was also widely supported by Republicans and Democrats in Congress — meaning that if it weren’t for Sen. Wyden, the bill would likely have passed.

Sen. Wyden’s full statement follows.

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Consistent with Senate Standing Orders and my policy of publishing in the Congressional Record a statement whenever I place a hold on legislation, I am announcing my intention to object to any unanimous consent request to proceed to S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act.

In December of last year I placed a hold on similar legislation, commonly called COICA, because I felt the costs of the legislation far outweighed the benefits. After careful analysis of the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, I am compelled to draw the same conclusion. 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. At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.

The Internet represents the shipping lane of the 21st century. It is increasingly in America’s economic interest to ensure that the Internet is a viable means for American innovation, commerce, and the advancement of our ideals that empower people all around the world. By ceding control of the Internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the Internet, PIPA represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives. Until the many issues that I and others have raised with this legislation are addressed, I will object to a unanimous consent request to proceed to the legislation.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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