House Takes On Online Piracy

By Andrea Salazar

Silicon Valley tech giants butted heads with Congress Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill designed to curb online copyright infringement.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would give the government tools to protect the works of American authors, artists and filmmakers from so called “rogue” websites that steal intellectual property. Under SOPA, the federal government would be able to seek injunction against foreign websites that use pirated or counterfeit products from the U.S.

Proponents of the bipartisan measure, including the Register of Copyrights at the Library of Congress Maria Pallante, argue that there is a need for SOPA because search engines do not remove infringing websites from their search results.

“If we do nothing, the film industry and those young directors who are starting out aren’t going to be able to do their craft,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said. “We’re not going to have the next Adele, the next Drake because they’re not going to be compensated for their work.”

Senior Executive Vice President of Global Policy and External Affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America Michael O’Leary, along with representatives from MasterCard and Pfizer, testified in support of the bill, arguing that it would protect many jobs across the country.

“Hard work, innovation and creativity are not solely the province of people who live in Northern California,” O’Leary said. “There are people all over this country who contribute to the economy every day, who contribute to our culture…and their jobs are just as important and just as worth protecting as everyone else’s.”

However, opponents of the bill, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, are calling it an Internet killer because under the new bill, websites could too easily be shut down for the actions of one user.

“SOPA would undermine the legal, commercial and cultural architecture that has propelled the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce over the past decade,” said Katherine Oyama, copyright counsel for Google.

Google’s current policy toward pirate sites is not to remove sites such as Pirate Bay from its search results. Instead, in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it takes down specific page links when rights holders notify the search engine of infringement.

Acknowledging the problem of online piracy, Google said it has concerns with the unclear language of SOPA, not the goal of curbing copyright infringement.

“The bill sweeps in innocent websites that have violated no law and imposes harsh and arbitrary sanctions without due process,” Oyama said, adding that it could threaten new entrepreneurship.

Instead, Oyama suggested that the solutions to online piracy are cutting revenue to those sites and making legal sites, like iTunes and Netflix, more available to the public.

“As long as a rogue site exists, people are still going to talk about it,” Oyama said. “They’re still going to blog about. They’re still going to post about it.”

Originally for Talk Radio News Service.

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