Google calls SOPA bill 'draconian,' sounds the censorship alarm

Congress wants to crack down on Internet piracy but its new proposals are not being embraced by some of the web’s biggest players. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was proposed in the House of Representatives in October with a goal of stopping foreign torrent websites from stealing content, like movies and music. The Senate is currently considering its own Protect IP Act, and though the MPAA and the RIAA support the legislation, Internet giants like Google and Facebook fear that the bills, should they pass, would introduce unwanted regulation and censorship. SOPA would give the government power to shut down sites that post copyrighted content and prevent search engines from working with suspect sites. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt called the legislation “draconian,” and his company teamed with Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, Twitter and other popular sites to write an open letter to Congress’ Committee on the Judiciary expressing their concerns.

“We support the bills’ stated goals — providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign ‘rogue’ websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting. 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. We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written and ask that you consider more targeted ways to combat foreign “rogue” websites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting…”

Hearings began yesterday in Washington, with Committee Chairman Lamar Smith saying in a statement, “Under current law, rogue sites that profit from selling pirated goods are often out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies and operate without consequences. 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.”

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