By Brendan Sasso - 09/22/11 04:01 AM EDT
A coalition of 359 companies and associations, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will send a letter Thursday to every member of Congress urging them to pass legislation to combat online copyright infringement.
The groups argue that online piracy destroys American jobs and confuses consumers.
"These rogue sites—those websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy—put American jobs, consumers, and innovation at risk," the groups wrote.
"Rogue sites legislation, such as the Senate’s Protect IP Act, is an absolute necessity to address this scourge of the online marketplace," said Mark Elliot, executive vice president of the Chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center, in the release.
The coalition includes major companies such as Comcast, Ford Motor Company, Major League Baseball and Wal-Mart, as well as smaller businesses.
Brian Napack, president of Macmillan, a publishing company and one of the letter's signers, said online intellectual property theft hurts his industry.
“The rampant theft of books on illegitimate money-making websites across the Internet denies authors the right to earn a living from their creative work," he said.
The Protect IP Act would give the Justice Department the authority to shut down websites "dedicated to" copyright or trademark infringement.
But Internet freedom advocates argue the measure would give the government too much power to censor websites. Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Top Dem: CIA officials thought spying on Senate ‘was flat out wrong’ The Trail 2016: Hell breaks loose MORE (D-Ore.) placed a hold on the bill in May.
"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 announcing his hold. "The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet."