Bachmann joins voices questioning online copyright bill

Presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has joined the growing chorus of both liberals and conservatives concerned about an online copyright bill that would significantly expand the government’s authority to shut down websites associated with copyright infringement.

Bachmann expressed doubt about the Protect IP Act in response to a letter from a member of Demand Progress, a progressive advocacy group that has worked to rally opposition to the bill. Demand Progress has found common cause on the issue with the Tea Party Patriots, which came out against the bill last month.

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“While I understand the importance of safeguarding Americans' intellectual property rights, I have serious concerns about government getting involved in regulation of the internet, and about ambiguities in this legislation which could lead to an explosion of destructive, innovation-stalling lawsuits,” Bachmann wrote.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May but was placed on hold by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who argued it was an overreach that would imperil free speech and innovation on the Internet. A Judiciary spokesman said the bill is a priority but that it is unclear when it will reach the floor.

Bachmann’s spokesman said the congresswoman began hearing from opponents of the legislation in June and noted the bill has not been introduced in the House.

House Intellectual Property sub-panel Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) recently told Hillicon he expects to introduce an updated version of the bill in the House some time in the near future, but declined to specify how his bill would differ from the Senate version authored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

A host of large firms and business groups have lined up to support the legislation, but opposition has emerged from Web entrepreneurs including the co-founders of Twitter, foursquare and LinkedIn.

Those entrepreneurs argue the bill’s definition of what constitutes a “rogue site” dedicated to copyright infringement is vague, and would likely burden smaller tech firms and start-ups.

The bill would require that such sites be removed from search engines, DNS servers and other third parties. Opponents say it would also allow rights holders to obtain temporary court orders against infringing sites without adequate judicial review.

The Consumer Electronics Association joined two other tech industry groups last week in writing to lawmakers, including Goodlatte and House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), expressing their concern about the bill and its impact on the tech industry.

They ask for stakeholder negotiations to address their concerns, a suggestion that policymakers have been amenable to.