Google chairman says online piracy bill would 'criminalize' the Internet

An online piracy bill in the House would "criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself," according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt said the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would punish Web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. He said implementing the bill as written would effectively break the Internet. 

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"By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet," Schmidt said, calling it a form of censorship.

The search giant has been at the forefront of a tech industry backlash against the legislation from House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). 

"If Congress writes a bad law, we all suffer," Schmidt said.

He compared the proposal to the Web censorship practiced by repressive foreign governments like China and doubled down on that comparison when speaking with reporters after his remarks at the Economic Club of Washington.

"It's not a good thing. I understand the goal of what SOPA and PIPA are trying to do," Schmidt said of the Senate counterpart bill, the Protect IP Act. "Their goal is reasonable, their mechanism is terrible. They should not criminalize the intermediaries. They should go after the people that are violating the law."

Schmidt also criticized SOPA for targeting the Domain Name System, which experts have warned could undermine the security of the Web.

"What they're essentially doing is whacking away at the DNS system and that's a mistake. It's a bad way to go about solving the problem," Schmidt said.

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The Google CEO said he's not familiar enough with an alternate piracy bill, dubbed the OPEN Act, to offer an educated opinion on its impact.

That bill, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.),would rely on the International Trade Commission (ITC) to handle online copyright claims and stick to the "follow the money" approach Schmidt advocated, which would focus on forcing payment processors and online ad networks to cut ties with rogue websites.

Supporters of SOPA, including the movie industry and the House Judiciary Committee, have blasted the OPEN Act, arguing it goes easy on online piracy and would result in a huge cost increase for the ITC.

Smith responded on Monday: “Unfortunately, there are some critics of this legislation who are not serious about helping to protect America’s intellectual property. That’s because they’ve made large profits by promoting rogue sites to U.S. consumers."

"Google recently paid a half billion dollars to settle a criminal case because of the search-engine giant’s active promotion of rogue foreign pharmacies that sold counterfeit and illegal drugs to U.S. patients," he continued. "As a result of their actions, the health and lives of many American patients may have been endangered. Their opposition to this legislation is self-serving since they profit from doing business with rogue sites.”


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