OVERNIGHT TECH: Pressure mounts on online piracy

THE LEDE: Thursday saw the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approve chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) Protect IP Act, only to see Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) place a hold on the bill just hours later. Supporters, including the entertainment industries, claim the bill will give the government the tools it needs to safeguard U.S. intellectual property. Free speech advocates echo Wyden's concerns that the legislation's provisions are too broad and could result in censorship of the Internet.

The bill empowers the Justice Department to seek a court order against any infringing websites either domestic or foreign that can then be served on third parties, including Internet service providers, search engines and payment processors, to force them to cut off access to the site. Copyright holders can also file for a court order that would force payment processors to cut off payments to infringing sites. But opponents including Public Knowledge say the law will only spur criminals to create technological workarounds that will allow piracy to continue.

Read more in The Hill.

The Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus released its annual watch list of nations where the lack of intellectual property protections is hurting the U.S. economy: Canada, China, Russia, Spain and Ukraine comprise this year's list. China remains far and away the largest source of software piracy. Russia and Spain have likewise been sources of concern for the U.S. content industries for some time, although the report acknowledges recent steps taken by Spain to provide procedures for removing infringing content.

Canada's piracy rate was lower but the report criticizes the country's lack of an effective legal framework to combat online piracy. Ukraine is a new addition to the list thanks to its increasing role as a hub for hosting pirated content on peer-to-peer networks and hosted websites.

House Republicans voice concerns about AT&T/T-Mobile merger: GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee showed for the first time on Thursday strong reservations about how the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile could strain businesses in and out of the wireless industry. They grilled the CEOs of AT&T and T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom on how the $39 billion combination will impact midsize and small wireless companies, particularly in the backhaul market.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson countered the special access concerns by saying that the market for backhaul includes a diverse array of choices, including cable companies. He also cited a special access proceeding at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and said he thinks it will ensure "fair pricing" for special access services. To this point, AT&T has strongly advocated against the FCC moving to intervene in the special-access market. 

Boucher enlisted to stump for merger: AT&T gained an advocate for its proposed merger with T-Mobile this week when former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) joined the Internet Innovation Alliance, an AT&T-backed advocacy group that is working to promote the combination. Boucher, the former leader of the House telecom subcommittee and a seasoned expert in telecom policy, adds to AT&T's already deep bench for selling the deal in Washington. 

FACEBOOK ADDS BUSH AIDES TO LOBBY TEAM - From The Hill's print edition: Facebook shuffled its lobbying staff on Thursday, adding two former aides to President George W. Bush ahead of the upcoming debate on consumer privacy legislation. Joel Kaplan, who served as deputy chief of staff under Bush junior, will join Facebook on June 13 as vice president of U.S. public policy. He will report to vice president of global public policy Marne Levine.

Accompanying Kaplan from the Bush White House will be Myriah Jordan, who will join the firm’s congressional relations team on June 6 as policy manager. She most recently served as general counsel to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Cathie Martin, who had been managing Facebook’s outreach on Capitol Hill, will take a leave of absence starting in early June to tend to personal matters. There is no timetable for her return; in the interim, Jordan and public policy director Tim Sparapani will take over congressional relations.

Rockefeller: No kids on Facebook - The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) let it be known Thursday that he is firmly opposed to allowing children below the age of the 13 to sign up for the popular social network. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg suggested last week that younger users should be allowed on the site for educational purposes, but he said Wednesday the firm has no plans to pursue that matter at present.

Speaking of Zuckerberg, he found time at the G8 Summit in France to discuss his taste in cinema with a couple of world leaders.

ICYMI: The Fantasy Sports Trade Association, which represents a host of big names in the sports world including the NFL, ESPN, CBSSports.com and Yahoo has hired its first lobbyist according to disclosure records filed this week. The association is seeking to legalize fantasy sports in the nine to 12 states where running or participating in a league can currently be considered illegal. About 27 million people in the U.S. play fantasy sports.