The so-called "Protect IP" bill, which is nominally intended to halt digital piracy and the online sale of counterfeit goods by allowing US officials to block allegedly infringing websites, has run into opposition from many quarters, including human rights activists.
Now it seems that the powerful United States Chamber of Commerce, which has aggressively promoted the legislation, may suffer for its stance. Last spring, an attempt by the hacktivist group Anonymous to shut down the Chamber's website with a denial-of-service attack fell far short of its goal, but recently several high-powered tech industry groups and their members have joined the struggle.
Yahoo left the Chamber last month, and Google is apparently considering doing the same. According to Politico, "A source close to Google said the company is 'frustrated' about paying dues to an organization promoting legislation that would 'impose new liabilities' on Google."
"Many in the tech industry believe the Chamber is doing the bidding of Hollywood and other deep-pocketed members of the content industry," Politico explains. "The Chamber believes the IP bills are needed to stop rogue sites from profiting off the content its members spend millions making. In testimony before Congress, entertainment companies have vilified Google as a facilitator of online piracy."
Google has not formally taken a position on the legislation, but some of its high-level executives, including Vint Cert and Eric Schmidt, have criticized the bill for potentially disrupting the architecture of the Internet.
Protect IP would not only enable rights holders to obtain a court order preventing search engines like Google and Yahoo from providing a direct link to websites that have been accused of infringement, but -- in at least one version of the bill -- would enable them to demand that these companies' ad networks cut off such sites even without having gone through any formal judicial process.
A week ago, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, and NetCoalition -- whose members include Yahoo and Google -- all came out in opposition to the bill, calling it "an alarming step backwards" that could create a “litigation and liability nightmare for Internet and technology companies and social media.” It appears that the battle is about to intensify.
Photo by Steve Jurvetson at Flickr.