Internet anti-piracy bills lack White House support

The White House will not stand behind any change in Internet law that limits freedom of expression, undercuts cybersecurity or upsets the worldwide computer network system. The declaration was made through a blog post from the Obama administration, just days before a scheduled House hearing on new anti-piracy legislation.

Two pieces of proposed anti-theft Internet law are circulating in the House and Senate. Music and movie makers are pushing for legal protection against piracy of their products, even as Internet companies try to block it for fear of censorship and stunted technological growth.

The Obama administration tempered its suggested restrictions with the admission that piracy is a serious Internet issue that requires legislation. An executive vice president for The Motion Picture Association of America took that to mean that the White House eventually will back some form of intellectual property theft legislation.

The MPAA official said his organization is hoping for “meaningful” Internet laws that affect search engines, advertising brokers and websites that process payments.

A bill in the House, called the Stop Online Piracy Act, was revised recently to exclude a provision to force Internet service providers to block foreign websites with pirated material. The proposal has been roundly criticized by companies like Google and Facebook for the threat of censorship.

A hearing on the proposal, which the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called “fundamentally flawed,” will be delayed.

The Senate is set to discuss a separate proposal for anti-piracy laws on Jan. 24, but it appears that enough opposition has emerged in the Senate that legislation in its current form could not pass.

And while legislation appears to be stalled, Internet piracy continues. Companies will still need to take vigorous measures to protect themselves and their intellectual property while Washington dithers.

Source: Bloomberg, “White House Won’t Back Internet Censorship,” Richard Rubin, Jan. 15, 2012