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Members Push Alternate Online Piracy Bills

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Darrell Issa, the sponsor of the House OPEN Act, is soliciting public input on the legislation at KeepTheWebOpen.com.

The Motion Picture Association of America came out against the proposed legislation in a statement the group released earlier this month before the widespread online protests. “Unfortunately, the legislation sponsored by Senator Wyden and Representative Issa, the OPEN Act, is ineffective and essentially a distraction intended to hurt the prospects of more effective legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act,” Michael O’Leary, senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs, said in the statement.

The statement from O’Leary goes on to say that OPEN would create bureaucratic obstacles for copyright holders and be too lenient with websites that illegally use copyrighted materials.

The Recording Industry Association of America, another supporter of SOPA and PIPA, expressed similar dissatisfaction with the bill. “The bill as drafted would do more harm than good,” an RIAA spokeswoman said, “but of course we’d consider all options on the table to see if a real, effective and meaningful consensus solution can be found.”

On the other side of the issue, the SOPA and PIPA protesters are divided on OPEN.

A collection of major technology companies, including Google, Twitter, eBay and AOL, sent Wyden a letter pledging their support for OPEN at the beginning of the month. “This approach targets foreign rogue sites without afflicting collateral damage on legitimate, law-abiding U.S. Internet companies by bringing well-established international trade remedies to bear on this problem,” the companies said in the letter. “We commend your effort and look forward to supporting the legislation upon its formal introduction.”

Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight for the Future — the group that helped organize the online protests of SOPA and PIPA earlier this month — explained that many of the protest’s participants believe the first step should be evaluating if legislation is actually needed. “The consensus among groups that we’ve talked to ... is that the film industry, the primary proponent of SOPA, needs to define a lot better what the problem is and substantiate it with data,” he said.

According to Wilson, the recording and film industries have not convinced the online community that online piracy on foreign websites is a danger that cannot be addressed by existing laws. Wilson pointed to the recent shutdown of New Zealand-based Megaupload.com, a website that was allegedly sharing copyrighted material illegally, as an example of how existing law adequately addresses issues of copyright infringement by foreign websites.

Wilson said the focus should be why people reacted so strongly to SOPA and PIPA. “We want to have a real public dialogue,” he said, explaining that members of the Internet community are developing “a set of common principles for a free Internet” that they could point to when policymakers attempt to tackle online piracy again.

And, for Wilson, that’s a certainty. “This is not going to be an issue that goes away,” he said. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

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