DNC chief is backer of online piracy bill

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is among the most prominent supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which drew massive protests from sites like Wikipedia and Google on Wednesday.

Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) is the highest-ranking Democrat among the bill's original sponsors in the House; the bill's supporters have been targeted by the growing grassroots backlash against the legislation from the technology community. Rep. John Larson (Conn.), a member of the House Democratic leadership, is also a co-sponsor.

A number of lawmakers declared opposition to SOPA and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act, on Wednesday in response to the protests, which cite concerns about the law infringing on free speech and innovation.

Wasserman Schultz's support of the bill highlights daylight between her and President Obama. Over the weekend the Obama administration expressed concern the legislation could potentially restrict the openness of the Internet. 

“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,” the president’s advisers wrote in a statement on Saturday.

President Obama “will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

The legislation is scheduled to resume markup in the House Judiciary Committee next month, where Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) insists he will continue to move the bill forward.

Supporters of SOPA, particularly the entertainment and content industries, argue the legislation is needed to stop the erosion of revenue and jobs due to the threat of online piracy from foreign rogue websites.

UPDATE: “The Congresswoman recognizes that we need to have legislation that balances a strong, open, and free internet, while at the same time protecting Americans from companies that profit by stealing and repackaging other people’s work,” said Mara Sloan, Wasserman Schultz's press secretary. “She has heard from constituents both for and against the legislation and she feels strongly that we need to find a balanced compromise.”

—This article was updated at 7:11 p.m.