Bloomberg News

House Panel Adjourns Debate on Hollywood-Backed Web Piracy Bill

December 20, 2011

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The House Judiciary Committee adjourned today its second day of debate of a Hollywood-backed anti-piracy bill that Google Inc. and other Internet companies say will foster censorship.

Lobbying by the entertainment and Web industries intensified with the hearing, which spanned almost 12 hours yesterday as lawmakers debated more than 25 of 60 proposed amendments. A website, engineadvocacy.org, said 9,788 telephone calls were made to Congress through its link to protest the measure, the Stop Online Piracy Act. The hearing will resume when Congress is next in session.

Movie studios, including Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., want a crackdown on non-U.S. websites that sell illegally copied films and TV shows as Web companies say the measure spurs online censorship and harms technology innovation. Lawmakers on the panel said a provision on blocking websites may damage the security of the Internet’s domain-name system and requested a delay to hear technical testimony.

“We’re going to lose eventually and we’re going to lose in the worst possible way,” Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican opposing the measure, said today before the hearing was adjourned. “We’re going to lose without all the facts.”

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. The measure also gives private copyright holders the ability to seek court orders forcing payment and ad companies to cut ties with such sites.

Alternative Draft

“The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical; none of it is based in reality,” said Lamar Smith, who leads the committee and introduced the measure. “Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet. This much-needed legislation makes it harder for foreign thieves to steal and sell America’s intellectual property.”

Issa and Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, released an alternative draft bill last week that would make the International Trade Commission the arbiter of complaints about non-U.S. websites linked to piracy. That proposal is backed by Google, Facebook Inc., and other Web companies and opposed by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Approval by the committee would send the Stop Online Piracy act to the full House. A similar measure, the Protect IP Act, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May and is awaiting action by the full Senate. Both bills are backed by MPAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Opposition by Web

Issa, along with House Judiciary Committee members Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, and Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, submitted multiple amendments designed to alter components of the bill.

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

The letter included a link to a website encouraging people to e-mail or call members of Congress to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act. Lofgren yesterday urged people on Twitter who oppose the bill to request a meeting their representatives and linked to the same site, engineadvocacy.org.

--Editors: Steve Walsh, Andrea Snyder

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Walsh at swalsh@bloomberg.net


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