May 26th, 2011

Judiciary Committee Set to Pass Anti-Piracy Bill

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The Protect IP Act, a bill aimed at cracking down on rogue sites that steal content or sell counterfeit goods, is on the fast track. Introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., just two weeks ago, the bill will go on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. It’s likely to sail through the committee, especially because 12 of the committee’s 18 members are co-sponsors.

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, the committee picked up support from Microsoft. “Because piracy harms not only the rights owner, but our economy more broadly, it is reasonable to expect responsible companies to step up,” Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

On the other hand, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has come out strongly against the bill, most recently on Wednesday, when he spoke at Google’s Big Tent conference in London.

A group of 13 public interest organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Center for Democracy and Technology, chimed in with a letter sent Wednesday to Leahy and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Acknowledging the Protect IP Act as an improvement over last year’s version, the groups said they are still concerned about provisions that would allow Internet service providers to interfere with domain name look-up services as well as what they consider overly broad requirements for search engines and hyperlinks.

The House has been slower to act on piracy legislation, but Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, gave a strong nod to the Protect IP Act when it was introduced. Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Mel Watt, D-N.C., are working with him on a crafting a bill.

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