Saturday, February 17, 2018

After protest, Congress puts off Internet piracy bill

WASHINGTON — Caving to a massive campaign by Internet services and their millions of users, Congress indefinitely postponed legislation Friday to stop online piracy of movies and music costing U.S. companies billions of dollars every year. Critics said the bills would result in censorship and stifle Internet innovation.

The demise, at least for the time being, of the antipiracy bills was a clear victory for Silicon Valley over Hollywood, which has campaigned for a tougher response to online piracy. The legislation also would cover the counterfeiting of drugs and car parts.

The momentum against the Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act and the House's Stop Online Piracy Act, known popularly as PIPA and SOPA, grew quickly on Wednesday when the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and other Web giants staged a one-day blackout and Google organized a petition drive that attracted more than 7 million participants.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was postponing a test vote set for Tuesday "in light of recent events."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, followed suit, saying consideration of a similar House bill would be postponed "until there is wider agreement on a solution."

The two bills would allow the Justice Department, and copyright holders, to seek court orders against foreign websites accused of copyright infringement. The legislation would bar online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as credit card companies from doing business with an alleged violator. They also would forbid search engines from linking to such sites.

The chief Senate sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., cited estimates that copyright piracy costs the American economy more than $50 billion annually and that global sales of counterfeit goods via the Internet reached $135 billion in 2010. He and Smith insist that their bills target only foreign criminals and that there is nothing in them to require websites, Internet service providers, search engines or others to monitor their networks.

That didn't satisfy critics who said the legislation could force Internet companies to prescreen user comments or videos, burden new and smaller websites with huge litigation costs and impede new investments.

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