Bloomberg News

Hollywood-Backed Bill on Web Piracy Faces More House Debate

December 16, 2011

(Adds panel adjourning in second paragraph.)

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith urged U.S. lawmakers to approve Hollywood-backed legislation aimed at stopping Internet piracy of movies and goods that Google Inc. opposes as promoting censorship.

Smith’s panel began debating 60 proposed amendments to the Stop Online Piracy Act today before adjourning with plans to resume tomorrow. Lawmakers on the panel raised concerns that a provision on blocking websites may damage the security of the Internet’s domain-name system and requested a delay to hear technical testimony.

Lobbying by the entertainment and Internet industries intensified ahead of today’s hearing. Movie studios, including Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., want a crackdown on non-U.S. websites that sell illegally copied films and TV shows. Web companies say the House measure would harm innovation.

“Laws equip U.S. authorities and rights-holders to take action against criminals who operate within our borders,” Smith, a Republican from Texas, said in an opening statement at the hearing. “But there is no parallel authority that permits effective action against criminals who operate from abroad.”

The bill would let the Justice Department ask courts to order Internet-service providers, search engines, payment services and advertising networks to block or cease business with non-U.S. websites trafficking in stolen content or counterfeit goods.

Internet Executives

A similar measure, the Protect IP Act, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May and is awaiting action by the full Senate.

Sixteen Internet executives, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin, PayPal Inc. co-founder Elon Musk, and EBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar, published an open letter to Congress in major newspapers yesterday saying the House and Senate bills would give the U.S. government power to censor the Web.

Google, Facebook Inc. and other Internet companies rallied around an alternative draft bill from Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, which would make the U.S. International Trade Commission the arbiter of complaints about non-U.S. websites linked to piracy.

The proposal from Wyden and Issa “fails to provide an effective way to target foreign rogue websites and goes easy on online piracy and counterfeiting,” Michael O’Leary, senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement last week.

--Editors: Steve Walsh, Michael Shepard

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Engleman in Washington at eengleman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net


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