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Senator Wyden Puts Hold On Internet Censorship Bill

Senator Wyden continues to be the Senate’s truest champion of an open Internet.  Today he placed a hold on Senator Leahy’s PROTECT IP Act, citing concerns that it would “muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth.”  The bill scooted through Senate Judiciary today on a voice vote.  Wyden’s full statement is below.

The PROTECT IP Act would give the government the power to force Internet service providers, search engines, and other “information location tools” to block users’ access to sites that have been accused of copyright infringement — creating a China-like censorship regime here in the United States.

You can sign Demand Progress’s anti-PROTECT IP petition by clicking here.  And you can join more than 3,000 Demand Progress members in calling your lawmakers here.

Opposition to the bill is snowballing: Last week Google CEO Eric Schmidt came out against the legislation, saying “[If] it’s passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States, and we disagree with it, then we would still fight it…If it’s a request, the answer is we wouldn’t do it.”

Yesterday Demand Progress and more than a dozen human rights and civil liberties groups sent a letter in opposition to PROTECT IP to Leahy, cautioning that the bill “risks setting a precedent for other countries, even democratic ones, to use DNS mechanisms to enforce a range of domestic policies, erecting barriers on the global medium of the Internet.” The full letter is posted here.

Earlier this week, Demand Progress was (proudly) subject to a scurrilous attack by the Motion Picture Association of America because torrent site Demonoid linked to us.  This attack reveals PROTECT IP’s proponent’s warped sense of how the Internet works, or should work — a world where sites that link, and sites that are linked to, are responsible for each other’s actions.

In fact, in its latest campaign to generate attention, demandprogress appears to have allied itself with at least one – and who knows how many more – offshore rogue websites that promote the theft and illegal marketing of American products like movies, video games and software.

Here’s Wyden’s statement:

Consistent with Senate Standing Orders and my policy of publishing in the Congressional Record a statement whenever I place a hold on legislation, I am announcing my intention to object to any unanimous consent request to proceed to S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act.

In December of last year I placed a hold on similar legislation, commonly called COICA, because I felt the costs of the legislation far outweighed the benefits. After careful analysis of the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, I am compelled to draw the same conclusion. I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective. At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.

The Internet represents the shipping lane of the 21st century. It is increasingly in America’s economic interest to ensure that the Internet is a viable means for American innovation, commerce, and the advancement of our ideals that empower people all around the world. By ceding control of the Internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the Internet, PIPA represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives. Until the many issues that I and others have raised with this legislation are addressed, I will object to a unanimous consent request to proceed to the legislation.

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David A. Segal

David A. Segal