Sen. Leahy will look at anti-piracy alternative

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

But critics of the legislation argue the bills would stifle innovation and censor free speech.

The alternative bill, OPEN, would authorize the U.S. International Trade Commission, rather than the Justice Department, to go after the foreign pirate sites. The bill focuses on a “follow the money” approach by aiming to cut off revenue to the websites instead of requiring other sites to delete links.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a fierce opponent of SOPA and Protect IP, introduced OPEN in the House.

An aide to Sen. Leahy clarified that the senator did not mean to imply his Judiciary Committee will take up the legislation. The measure has been referred to the Finance Committee. 

Leahy made the comments after speaking at the Congressional Internet Caucus reception on Capitol Hill.

In his prepared remarks, Leahy said Congress must remain vigilant to ensure that new technologies do not erode rights to free speech or privacy. He added that it is possible to protect the right to property, including intellectual property, without hurting other rights.

He said he met with Chief Justice John Roberts and praised the Supreme Court's recent decision in U.S. v. Jones that installing a GPS tracking device on a suspect's car qualifies as a search under the Fourth Amendment.

—Updated on Jan. 26 at 10:00 a.m.