Issa pushes alternative anti-piracy bill

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced his version of OPEN in the Senate last month.

But critics of the legislation say it will do little to curb online copyright infringement.

OPEN is an alternative to the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's Protect IP Act (PIPA), which sparked a massive Web protest on Wednesday.

Thousands of sites, including Google, Wikipedia and reddit, either shutdown in protest or directed users to statements opposing the bills.

The backlash forced numerous lawmakers to backpedal and pull their support of the bills.

SOPA and Protect IP would empower the Justice Department and copyright holders to demand that search engines delete links to sites deemed to be “dedicated” to copyright infringement. Ad networks and payment processors would be prohibited from doing business with the sites.

Movie studios, record labels and business groups say the legislation is needed to stop the illegal downloading of movies, music and other copyrighted content, and argue that legislative action is long overdue. 

But Web companies warn the bills would stifle innovation and censor free speech. They say the legislation would impose an unreasonable burden on websites to police user-generated content and could lead to legitimate websites getting shut down.

Issa's alternative bill would empower the U.S. International Trade Commission, rather than the Justice Department, to go after the foreign infringing websites. The bill focuses only on a "follow the money" approach, requiring ad networks and payment processors to cut off business with the sites, instead of requiring other sites to delete links.

The bill also does not include a private of action for copyright holders to target sites pirating their material.

But Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the sponsor of SOPA, said Issa's bill would be ineffective. 

"The Wyden-Issa OPEN Act does not do enough to combat online piracy, and may make the problem worse," Smith said. "The OPEN Act makes the Internet even more open to foreign thieves that steal America’s technology and intellectual property without protecting U.S. businesses and consumers. The bill is not an effective tool for combating online intellectual property theft. The proposal amounts to a safe harbor for foreign criminals who steal American technology, products and intellectual property."

Smith said he will continue to move forward with SOPA next month.