Last updated: January 17, 2012 - 10:05am
[Commentary] While much of the nation's capital has been engrossed in the debate over unemployment, taxes and spending, lobbyists representing a huge swath of the U.S. economy have been battling over proposals to combat foreign websites dedicated to piracy. The Senate plans to take up its version soon, despite the lack of consensus about how to rein in pirate sites without censoring legitimate speech or stifling innovation. That would be a mistake.
The bills — the PROTECT IP Act (S 968) in the Senate, the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261) in the House — would authorize the Justice Department to obtain court orders against foreign piracy hotbeds. Those orders would compel Internet service providers and search engines to deter users from accessing those sites, while requiring payment processors and advertising networks to stop servicing them. The bills would also enable copyright and trademark owners to seek similar court orders against alleged piracy hotbeds regardless of where they were located. The various factions should work toward an agreement on that kind of approach rather than having the Senate try to ram through something that is still bitterly opposed by so much of the tech industry.