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Bill aimed at piracy pits Hollywood against Silicon Valley

A bill that takes aim at online piracy has Web companies banding together to fight it, claiming it will threaten technology in the U.S. The Stop Online Piracy Act, which was introduced last month and is scheduled for a hearing this week, is intended to help law enforcement and copyright holders fight online piracy of intellectual property and banish copyright-infringing sites from the Web.

The House bill could require Internet service providers, search engines and other Web-based companies to block or stop business with sites linked to piracy, according to an article in BusinessWeek. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo oppose the bill, saying that it would require them to essentially police the Internet, and could stunt the growth of innovation and job creation on the Web.

A letter sent from these and other companies sent to the leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees said, "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 websites."

Supporters of the legislation, which include the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, maintain that intellectual property is being stolen on a daily basis, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that the motion picture and recording industries contribute to the U.S. economy.

The House bill has at least 20 supporters on both sides of the aisle, as well as some opponents. The Senate's bill, the Protect IP Act, has at least one opponent. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said the bill "takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet," BusinessWeek reported. He and other lawmakers are working on an alternative bill that would fight copyright infringement without the wide reach of the currently proposed bill.

Is there a middle ground when it comes to preventing online piracy on the wide-open seas of the Internet? The answer remains to be seen, but industry giants on both sides of the issue are sure to continue weighing in.

Source: BusinessWeek, "Google Friends Facebook Against Hollywood-Backed Piracy Bill," Eric Engleman, Nov. 15, 2011

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