On the eve of a House Judiciary Committee hearing conducted on Wednesday, representatives of Google, eBay, Twitter and other online technology firms warned lawmakers in a letter that pending online piracy legislation that would block payments to foreign websites that traffic in pirated films and other content would “expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities.” At Wednesday’s hearing, House lawmakers and tech industry officials convened to debate the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261), which would authorize the Justice Department to shut down via court order U.S. financial support to “rogue” foreign websites that sell pirated movies, music and other goods. Boasting support from both parties as well as from copyright owners, the House bill resembles a measure that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year but has yet to be voted on in the Senate. Among other things, the bill would also enable content owners to ask payment processing and advertising networks to cut off U.S. funds to suspected websites and to seek court orders compelling the stoppage of such funding if payment firms fail to act on their own. Endorsing the measure, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) told his colleagues that the U.S. “cannot continue a system that allows criminals to disregard our laws and import counterfeit and pirated goods across our physical borders.” Warning, however, that the bill could undermine provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that provide legal protections to websites that act in good faith to remove copyrighted material posted illegally by users, an official of Google urged changes to the bill “so we don’t have to proactively monitor all user-generated content in real time.” Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) agreed, cautioning that the bill could give content owners the ability to shut down legitimate websites that are not known to traffic in pirated material. Commenting on the industry letter and on Wednesday’s hearing, a spokesman for the Net Coalition said, “what we are concerned about is that this is more of an attempt to change the laws that apply to technology companies and give the studios more private rights of action to sue.”
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Online firms warn that legitimate websites could be targeted under antipiracy bill
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Senior Patent Counsel
Royal DSM NV