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Senator blocks controversial copyright bill

By Grant Gross
May 27, 2011 11:16 AM ET

IDG News Service - A U.S. senator has blocked a controversial bill that would enlist ISPs, search engines and other businesses in blocking access to alleged Websites infringing copyright.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has blocked the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PROTECT IP Act, from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

On Thursday, just two weeks after the bill was introduced, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to move the PROTECT IP Act to the Senate floor. Under Senate rules, a single senator can place a hold on a bill, although the block can be overridden by a 60-vote majority.

The PROTECT IP Act would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders requiring search engines and ISPs to stop sending traffic to websites accused of infringing copyright. The bill would also allow copyright holders to seek court orders requiring payment processors and online ad networks to stop doing business with allegedly infringing websites.

The legislation would attack free speech online and hurt e-commerce, Wyden said.

"I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective," he said in a statement. "At the expense of legitimate commerce, [the bill's] prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet."

Wyden called the Internet the "shipping lane" of the 21st century. "It is increasingly in America's economic interest to ensure that the Internet is a viable means for American innovation, commerce, and the advancement of our ideals that empower people all around the world," he said. "By ceding control of the Internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the Internet, [the bill] represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives."

Critics of the bill have said it would lead to hundreds of court cases brought by copyright owners against online businesses. The legislation would lead to a blacklist of Internet sites and compromise the Internet's Domain Name System, critics have said.

But backers of the bill have said new methods are needed to combat copyright infringement by foreign websites. The bill would target the worst foreign websites trafficking in digital piracy and counterfeit goods and would dry up their business by focusing on user traffic, advertising and payments, proponents said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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