December 19, 2011, 11:02 AM

Fight lingers over online piracy bill

The bill’s sponsor contends opponents like Google and Facebook “have nothing to worry about.”

Lead Photo

A group of Internet executives oppose a piece of legislation in the U.S. House meant to thwart online piracy.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee adjourned Friday without voting on the Stop Online Piracy Act, legislation intended to prevent foreigners from stealing and making money off of the online intellectual property of U.S. companies. But the committee said its review of SOPA will reconvene as early as this Wednesday if the House of Representatives is still in session.

The Judiciary Committee, chaired by chief SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith (R-TX), issued a statement Friday sharply critical of opposition to SOPA by more than a dozen executives of major Internet companies, who published a letter last week arguing that the proposed legislation would “have a chilling effect” on Internet technology innovation, deny web site owners the right to due process of law, give the U.S. government the power to censure the web using techniques similar to those used in China and Iran, and undermine online security by changing the basic structure of the Internet. The opposition letter was signed by 16 Internet executives and luminaries, including Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google Inc., Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay Inc. and Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo Inc.

“We urge Congress to think hard before changing the regulation that underpins the Internet,” the executives say in the letter, which appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other newspapers.

Some critics say authorities would be empowered to shut down web sites based on complaints by copyright holders, such as movie studios, about web content posted by consumers.

But Smith, whose office notes that Internet piracy costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and thousands of jobs, says his committee carefully considered 25 amendments to the bill before voting by a 2-1 margin to defeat them, contending that they would have made it harder to protect U.S. jobs and innovators. “The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical,” Smith says. “None of it is based in reality. Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet.”

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