Groups urge Congress to take it slow on piracy

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The letter was signed by advocacy groups including Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Free Press, Amnesty International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Companies such as Mozilla, reddit and Twitpic also signed the letter.

Support for two anti-piracy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), evaporated last month after thousands of websites staged a massive protest. Lawmakers said they plan to re-work the legislation before moving forward.

Both bills aim to cut off access to foreign websites deemed dedicated to copyright infringement.

Supporters of the legislation, such as Hollywood and the recording industry, say online piracy is stealing billions of dollars from American businesses and destroying jobs. But in their letter to lawmakers, the groups said Congress should conduct further study of the effects of online piracy before moving forward.

The groups argued that Congress paid too much attention to the interests of the entertainment industry and not enough to the interests of the Web community when drafting SOPA and PIPA.

"The Internet’s value to the public makes it necessary that any legislative debate in this area be open, transparent, and sufficiently deliberative to allow the full range of interested parties to offer input and to evaluate specific proposals," the groups wrote. "To avoid doing so would be to repeat the mistakes of SOPA and PIPA."

When SOPA's sponsor, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), announced he would pull his legislation last month, he said the "problem of online piracy is too big to ignore."

But, he added, “it is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves,” and he said he “welcomes input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how to address this widespread problem.” 

—Updated at 4:39 p.m.