OVERNIGHT TECH: House panel to mark up online piracy bill

THE LEDE: The House Judiciary Committee will mark up the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act Thursday morning and vote on a manager's amendment from Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) aimed at blunting criticism of the bill from the technology community. The manager's amendment tightens the bill's language and narrows some definitions in an attempt to ensure its provisions apply only to rogue foreign websites dedicated to copyright infringement. Despite the backlash from Silicon Valley, Smith insisted the bill has broad support nationwide, pointing to the 29 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House in a letter to The Hill on Wednesday.

The amendment didn't stop the founders of Facebook, Google, Twitter and other major Web companies from sending an open letter to Washington opposing SOPA and its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act, on Wednesday. The tech executives compared the legislation to authoritarian tactics used to suppress free speech in countries like China, Malaysia and Iran, and argued the bill would give "the U.S. Government the power to censor the web."

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Smith struck back by accusing the bill's opponents of "spreading lies," singling out Google, arguing the search giant has a vested interest in preventing action against rogue websites. As evidence he pointed to the recent $500 million settlement against Google for allegedly running ads on illegal pharmacy websites.


OPEN Act headed to Financial Services and Ways and Means: Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) alternative piracy bill, the OPEN Act, will be considered by the Financial Services and Ways and Means committees. His bill would authorize the International Trade Commission to force online advertising networks and payment processors to delete links to rogue sites, but largely leaves search engines and other Web firms alone. Issa is expected to offer his bill as an amendment to SOPA at Thursday's markup, but it will likely be ruled not germane. The House Oversight chairman now plans to introduce the bill on Friday.

Because the bill does not involve the Justice Department, the Judiciary Committee does not have jurisdiction over it, according to aides. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the sponsor of SOPA, says Issa's bill does not do enough to combat online piracy. Smith presumably would not have moved Issa's bill to a vote if it were in his committee.

FCC chairman weighs in on spectrum bill: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski said that language in the House GOP payroll tax bill that restricts his agency's ability to regulate the airwaves could "threaten U.S. global leadership in spectrum-related innovation."

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"Several provisions of the House bill would tie the agency’s hands in ways that could be counterproductive, reducing economic value and hindering innovation and investment," he said in a statement after the House approved the bill on Tuesday evening, pointing to provisions that prevent the FCC from designating more spectrum for unlicensed use.

The spectrum legislation incentivizes television broadcasters to give up their airwaves for the government to auction to wireless companies, which have struggled to meet the data demands of smartphones and tablet computers. The bill also creates a nationwide broadband network for first-responders. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said House Republicans have "unilaterally stopped negotiating with us on spectrum, but I’m not giving up." He added that the bill's spectrum auctions are "secondary" to the public-safety network.


ICYMI: 

President Obama doesn't allow his daughters on Facebook.

Two House Democrats introduced a bill to set aside spectrum auction revenue for research and developmnet of a nationwide public-safety network.

Lawmakers said ICANN's plan to expand top-level domains is "not ready for prime time."

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's chief of staff Edward Lazarus is leaving at the end of January.