Congress retreats from Internet piracy bills after fierce outcry
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Backers and critics of anti-piracy legislation escalated a policy fight last week over two bills that could bring sweeping changes to the Internet. The high-profile fight led Congress to delay action indefinitely instead of proceeding this week. The New York Times describes that abrupt retreat Friday as "a major defeat to the traditional media industry while emboldening a new breed of online political activists."
Similar proposals in the House and Senate, now set aside, would have let the Justice Department and copyright holders shut websites that sell counterfeit goods or violate copyright law by posting music, writing, videos or other original creative material without permission.
Supporters included publishers, movie studios, record labels, drug makers and other industries. They said the legislation -- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) -- would have protected consumers and brought more U.S. jobs by blocking bootlegged content and goods. Proponents argue that the bills targeted only rogue foreign websites aimed at U.S. consumers.
Critics, including President Obama, said the bills went too far. "Protect intellectual property, but don’t threaten an open Internet," the White House tweeted from @BarackObama. Opponents also included free speech advocates and Internet companies, many of which posted strong calls to action last Wednesday. Google collected 4.5 million online petition signatures. Wikipedia and other sites protested by blocking full access for a day.
Congressman says: "The [House Judiciary] Committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation." -- Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, last Friday
Senator says: "The way citizens communicate with their government is never going to be the same." -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon
Author says: "Our opposition has become so extreme that we are doing more harm than good to our own cause. Those rare tech companies that have come out in support of SOPA are not merely criticized, but barred from industry events and subject to boycotts. We, the keepers of the flame of free speech, are banishing people for their speech." -- Jaron Lanier, Microsoft researcher who wrote You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
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