US & World

Congress tackles online piracy, pitting Hollywood against Silicon Valley

The U.S. Capitol Building's dome is seen in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Capitol Building's dome is seen in Washington, D.C.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

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It’s a bill that pits Hollywood against the Silicon Valley. The House Judiciary Committee today heard testimony about a measure that cracks down on Internet sites that distribute bootleg movies and counterfeit prescription drugs.

Katherine Oyama of Google has serious concerns about the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” or SOPA. She says SOPA would "undermine the legal, commercial and cultural architecture that has propelled the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce over the past decade."

Hollywood backs the measure. Michael O’Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America says the entertainment industry supports small businesses around the country. "Hard work, innovation and creativity are not solely the province of people who live in northern California."

He told members of the House Judiciary Committee "every time Congress protects intellectual property, the Internet flourishes. Every time the United States stands up for legitimacy over illegitimacy, the Internet gets bigger and stronger. More things are available to consumers, more products are available to consumers, we make more movies, they see more television. Protecting legitimacy is a positive thing for the economy and for innovation."

The Senate passed its own bill and most members of the House Judiciary Committee back it. But not Republican Darrell Issa of Irvine and not Democrat Zoe Lofgren, who represents Silicon Valley. The two are talking about an alternate approach.

Lofgren says, "There are sites that are illegal and something should be done about them. And the thing that should be done about them is cutting off their money." Lofgren says taking down Internet poker sites didn’t work; what did was making it impossible to process payments.

Human rights groups also oppose the bill. Lofgren says imposing a strict firewall is an "extraordinary remedy" similar to what China has done. "We're now actually funding efforts for human rights groups to get around repressive government firewalls," she says. "We'd be in the weird position of funding for human rights groups what we'd impose in the United States."

The bill also has the support of pharmaceutical companies and the Registrar of Copyrights at the Library of Congress.