On Wednesday Lawmakers in the United States introduced "The Stop Online Piracy Act," a bill that would give the government the ability to block web sites in the United States and abroad who traffic in counterfeit goods, illegal software, and other copyrighted goods.
The bill has managed to garner bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and is a tweaked version of a bill introduced in the Senate in May called the "Theft of Intellectual Property Act" or "Protect IP Act." Naturally the bill has the support of movie studios, the music industry, the Business Software Alliance, the National Association of Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce and many other lobbyists groups.
It does not have the support of digital rights and free speech advocacy groups because it allows law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to unilaterally shut down access to website here and abroad, without due process.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) thinks the bill is important. He claims that it "helps stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators.
"Rogue websites that steal and sell American innovations have operated with impunity," Smith said in a statement. "The online thieves who run these foreign websites are out of the reach of US law enforcement agencies and profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences. The bill prevents online thieves from selling counterfeit goods in the US, expands international protections for intellectual property, and protects American consumers from dangerous counterfeit products.
Bill co-sponsor Howard Berman (D-California) says it is "an important next step in the fight against digital theft and sends a strong message that the United States will not waiver in our battle to protect America's creators and innovators."
The Center for Democracy and Technology said the House bill "raises serious red flags" because it contains "the most controversial parts of the Senate's Protect IP Act, but radically expands the scope. They claim that "any website that features user-generated content or that enables cloud-based data storage could end up in its crosshairs."
"Internet Service Providers would face new and open-ended obligations to monitor and police user behavior," the CDT said in a statement. "Payment processors and ad networks would be required to cut off business with any website that rightsholders allege hasn't done enough to police infringement. The bill represents a serious threat to online innovation and to legitimate online communications tools."
The House Judiciary Committee is to hold a hearing on the bill November 16.
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