Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Web Piracy Bill Faces Fiercer Fight

"Media Companies Lose Ground as White House Sides With Internet Firms; Wikipedia Plans Protest

"Supporters of controversial antipiracy legislation face a struggle to regain momentum after the White House sided with irate Internet companies and users over the weekend and complained that the proposal could hurt innocent companies and undermine cybersecurity.

"On Saturday, the White House outlined its opposition to two similar bills pending in the House and Senate that would crack down on the sale of pirated American movies, music and other goods on foreign-based websites. The bills would require Internet companies to hobble access to foreign pirate websites, bar search engines from linking to them and prevent U.S. companies from placing ads on them.

""While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," three White House advisers said in a statement released Saturday.

"The Obama administration's opposition to the legislation represents a new hurdle for the Hollywood studios and other supporters, who complain that they lose billions of dollars each year as a result of pirated movies or other goods.

"Lawmakers appeared to be on the verge of easily passing piracy legislation by a wide margin, but the prognosis for the measure is now uncertain...

"The proposed Stop Online Piracy Act has stoked wild rhetoric from both supporters and detractors. Opponents, including technology companies, have compared some provisions in the legislation to methods used by dictatorial regimes.

"To protest the proposed legislation, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia said it will close down its English language version for 24 hours on Wednesday.

"But supporters say the competitiveness of the movie and television industry—and even that of American business as a whole—is at stake.

"Major media companies that own TV channels and movie studios have been among the legislation's supporters. They worry that piracy could thwart their still nascent efforts to get consumers to pay for online content. In the TV business, for instance, channels are increasingly making their shows available online only to paying subscribers to cable and satellite operators—a system that could be undermined by pirate sites.

"It's very difficult to compete with free," said Rick Cotton, general counsel of Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal and a longtime proponent of stronger antipiracy measures. "New business models and new offerings are going to get stifled in the crib if there's an unlimited tidal wave of stolen content on the Internet."...

Wall Street Journal

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