FEATURED:

Google, Facebook urge lawmakers to scrap copyright enforcement bills

A group of technology companies including Google and Facebook urged the top lawmakers on the House and Senate Judiciary committees on Tuesday to scrap legislation aimed at cracking down on websites dedicated to copyright infringement.

We support the bills stated goals, the companies wrote, referring to the Senates Protect IP Act and the Houses Stop Online Piracy Act. Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites.

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The letter, sent to Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Senate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP MORE (D-Vt.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October MORE (R-Iowa) and Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), was also signed by AOL, eBay, Yahoo, Mozilla, Twitter, LinkedIn and Zynga.

We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industrys continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nations cybersecurity, they wrote.

The bills would expand the powers of law enforcement and copyright holders to shut down websites dedicated to copyright infringement. They would also allow the Justice Department to demand that third parties, such as search engines, payment processors and advertisers, block access to infringing sites.

The bills supporters, which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, argue they are necessary to curb online content theft.

Smith defended his copyright bill in an email Tuesday, noting that intellectual property theft costs the U.S. economy $100 billion annually.

“Claims that the Stop Online Piracy Act would limit lawful free speech on the Internet are false and misleading," Smith said. "This bill specifically targets websites that are dedicated to the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit material and products. It does not target the lawful activity of legitimate websites. Because this bill focuses on illegal activity, legitimate and lawful American businesses should have nothing to worry about."

"The Stop Online Piracy Act helps stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators," he said.

In their letter, the technology companies argue that the bills would undermine the Digital Millennium Copyright Acts (DMCA) safe harbor provisions, which protect Internet companies that act in good faith from liability for the actions of their users. For example, the law grants broad protections to YouTube even if its users post unlicensed videos.

Since their enactment in 1998, the DMCAs safe harbor provisions for online service providers have been a cornerstone of the U.S. Internet and technology industrys growth and success, the companies wrote. While we work together to find additional ways to target foreign rogue sites, we should not jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owners and Internet companies alike.

—Updated at 3:21 p.m.