GOP chairman expects Obama to sign anti-online piracy bill

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he expects President Obama will sign the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a controversial measure to crackdown on online copyright infringement, if it clears Congress.

"I expect that the administration will support the bill because it helps create jobs for American workers and makes it harder for online thieves to steal America’s products and profits,” Smith, who sponsored the bill in the House, said in an email.

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The president has not yet taken a position on the bill.

An administration spokeswoman said the president's chief adviser on intellectual property issues, Victoria Espinel, has discussed the legislation with tech companies, unions, copyright holders, consumer advocacy groups, progressive groups and Internet freedom advocates.

SOPA would empower the Justice Department and copyright holders to demand that search engines, Internet providers and ad networks block access to sites "dedicated" to copyright infringement.

The legislation is aimed at shutting down foreign sites such as The Pirate Bay that offer illegal copies of movies, music and television shows with impunity.

"The Stop Online Piracy Act addresses the problem of counterfeit products and online theft of intellectual property," Smith said. "The bill protects American jobs and ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators."

A broad coalition, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hollywood, the recording industry and organized labor strongly back the bill.

But consumer groups and major web companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook warn SOPA could stifle innovation and censor free speech.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has said the bill would "criminalize" the Internet, and warns it would create a Web-censorship regime similar to ones used in authoritarian countries like China.

Smith says his bill does not apply to lawful websites, and opponents like Google are "spreading lies" about the legislation.

Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, also expressed confidence that the president will sign the anti-piracy bill.

"We anticipate that the House and Senate will send the president bi-partisan legislation that the administration will support," Gantman said in an email.

Smith's Judiciary Committee held a marathon markup session of the bill on Thursday and Friday, and he said he hopes to schedule a vote on it as soon as possible. The Senate version, the Protect IP Act, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in May and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate.