Technology companies and Internet businesses breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday when the White House issued a statement saying it wouldn’t support Congress’ controversial proposed online piracy legislation.
Three of President Obama’s advisers, including White House cyber-security czar Howard Schmidt, said in the statement that the House of Representatives’ proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and other similar bills are too heavy-handed and could make legitimate Internet businesses vulnerable to litigation. They also said the bills could harm free speech.
“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,” the officials said.
SOPA aims to drive foreign websites that sell counterfeit goods out of business by requiring ISPs to block access to the sites, and online advertising networks to stop ads and search engines from linking to them.
“Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Tex., in response to the White House’s statement.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Saturday said it strongly supports SOPA, as well as the Senate’s Protect IP Act, which also targets websites that infringe IP rights.
But many civil rights groups and tech companies—including Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc., Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and eBay Inc.—oppose the legislation, saying it would impost huge costs on online companies and scare away investors.
The White House is pushing for a more targeted approach to the online piracy legislation that would ensure that legitimate businesses aren’t harmed.
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