Sen. Wyden pushes anti-piracy alternative

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The OPEN act meets the same publicly stated goals as SOPA or Protect IP without causing massive damage to the Internet,” Wyden said in a news release. “I’ve long said that IP infringement is a problem that needs to be addressed, but these other bills tread deeply into online censorship and blacklisting in order to protect intellectual property.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) plans to introduce the OPEN Act in the House.

Protect IP and SOPA would empower the Justice Department and copyright-holders to demand that search engines, Internet providers and ad networks cut off access to sites “dedicated” to copyright infringement.

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

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

But consumer groups and major Web companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook, have warned that the bills could stifle innovation and infringe upon free speech. They worry the government might block a legitimate site if its users post infringing material.

They have also argued that companies could use the new legal powers to shut down competitors rather than just protecting their own material.   

Wyden’s OPEN Act relies on the “follow-the-money” approach favored by tech firms such as Google.

His bill authorizes the International Trade Commission to force online advertising networks and payment processors to not do business with rogue sites, but largely leaves search engines and other Web firms alone. 

Wyden said his bill would achieve the same goals as Protect IP and SOPA, but “without the collateral damage.”

But critics of the OPEN Act question whether it would be as effective at blocking illegal sites as Protect IP and SOPA. 

The Pirate Bay, for example, makes money from foreign advertisers, so the OPEN Act might do little to prevent Americans from using the popular piracy site. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), SOPA’s sponsor, pushed back against the bill’s critics.

“[SOPA] does not give unilateral authority to the Justice Department to shut down foreign rogue websites,” he wrote last week in an email. “Under the Stop Online Piracy Act, the Justice Department must go to a federal court and lay out the case against a foreign infringing site.”

He also warned that the OPEN Act would give the president too much power to pardon foreign websites.  

“It’s ironic that opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act express concern over DOJ’s role in the enforcement of intellectual property law, but have no problem giving President Obama the authority to pardon foreign rogue websites for mere policy reasons. ” Smith said.

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