SOPA author presses ahead

The US lawmaker behind a bill to combat online piracy has vowed to press ahead with the measure despite criticism from Internet giants such as Google and Facebook, and threats from sites such as Reddit to go ‘dark’ for a day in protest.

“It is amazing to me that the opponents apparently don’t want to protect American consumers and businesses,” Republican Representative Lamar Smith told Reuters. “Are they somehow benefiting by directing customers to these foreign websites? Do they profit from selling advertising to these foreign websites? And if they do, they need to be stopped. And I don’t mind taking that on.”

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chaired by Smith, aims to fight online piracy of pharmaceuticals, music and other consumer products by allowing the Department of Justice to seek federal court injunctions against foreign-based websites.

Under the bill, if a judge agrees that websites offer material that violates US copyright laws, Internet service providers could be required to block access to foreign sites and US online ad networks could be required to stop ads and search engines barred from directly linking to them.

Reddit chief executive Alexis Ohanian has said it would “cripple the Internet” and pledged to take his social media site dark for one day next week to protest the bill. “This could potentially obliterate the entire tech industry — a job-creating industry,” Ohanian wrote on his blog.

According to Smith, the bill would only affect websites based outside the United States, suggesting that opponents had failed to cite specific sections, and had failed to read it. He claimed they were disguising their economic interests with rhetoric about Internet freedom.

Smith predicted the bill would pass the House. It was about halfway through the process of committee hearings and could go to the House floor in a matter a weeks, he said.

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