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Wyden introduces alternative anti-piracy bill

December 20, 2011

By Colin Mann

Senator Ron Wyden has now introduced the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act which is proposed as an alternative to tougher anti-piracy bills, such as the Senate’s Protect IP Act and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Senators Jerry Moran and Maria Cantwell have signed on as co-sponsors.

“The OPEN act meets the same publicly stated goals as SOPA or Protect IP without causing massive damage to the Internet,” claimed Wyden. “I’ve long said that IP infringement is a problem that needs to be addressed, but these other bills tread deeply into online censorship and blacklisting in order to protect intellectual property.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa plans to introduce the OPEN Act in the House.

Protect IP and SOPA would empower the Justice Department and copyright-holders to demand that search engines, Internet providers and ad networks cut off access to sites “dedicated” to copyright infringement.

Although the US Chamber of Commerce, Hollywood, the recording industry and organised labour, strongly back the legislation, consumer groups and major Web companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook, have warned that Protect IP and SOPA could stifle innovation and infringe upon free speech. They worry the government might block a legitimate site if its users post infringing material.

Wyden’s bill authorises the International Trade Commission to force online advertising networks and payment processors to not do business with rogue sites, but largely leaves search engines and other Web firms alone.

Wyden’s proposed approach has received support fromInfluential US trade body the Consumer Electronics Association, as well as a coalition of nine of the largest Internet companies. “We write today to express our support for the legislation you are developing,” stated an open letter to the legislators, signed by Facebook, Google, Mozilla, eBay, AOL, Yahoo, Twitter, LinkedIn and Zynga. The companies suggest that the approach outlined in the OPEN Act “targets foreign rogue sites without inflicting collateral damage on legitimate, law-abiding US Internet companies”.

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