Supporters of online piracy bill slam cost, prospects of alternate proposal

Supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are taking issue with a draft of alternate online piracy legislation circulated last week and predicting the bill would be unlikely to garner enough support to pass Congress.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers including prominent SOPA opponents Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) released a draft proposal last week that would task the International Trade Commission (ITC) with handling complaints from copyright holders about foreign websites dedicated to piracy.

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The lawmakers framed their proposal as an alternative to SOPA, which has drawn a fierce backlash from the technology industry. The bill would allow the Justice Department and rightsholders to demand Web firms delete links to rogue sites; it has strong support from the entertainment and retail industries.

Issa has argued that the ITC approach would be more effective at preventing sites from popping up with new names and avoiding imposing a burden on Web firms by targeting payment processors, online ad networks and other sources of revenue for rogue websites.

But a House Judiciary Committee aide said transferring intellectual property enforcement to the ITC from the Justice Department would result in "a dramatic and costly expansion of the federal bureaucracy." The aide argued the Justice Department has the expertise to handle such cases.

In addition, the aide noted the Issa-Wyden bill would have to garner the support of the relevant committee heads, which include the Ways & Means/Finance Committees in both chambers. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is a co-sponsor of PROTECT IP, a companion bill to SOPA.

There is no legislative language available for the alternative bill, but its sponsors plan to publish a draft for public comment in the coming weeks.

Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has said he plans to move on SOPA before the end of the year but the aide couldn't confirm a reported markup date of Dec. 15.