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Proposed Piracy Legislation Puts Internet Giants On Defensive

This is what a Tumblr news feed looks like today.
This is what a Tumblr news feed looks like today.

The biggest names on the Internet — Google, Facebook, Twitter, AOL and eBay — are banding together to urge Congress to scrap the Stop Online Piracy Act, which they say poses a huge threat to the Internet. The House is set to debate the measure today.

The Christian Science Monitor reportson what Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt had to say about the bill:

"Intended to combat the trade in pirated movies and music, the two bills would give copyright holders and law enforcement officials added powers to cut off websites and require search engines, payment collectors and others to block access. The legislation Schmidt opposed is called the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House.

"'The solutions are draconian,' Schmidt said during an appearance at the MIT Sloan School of Management. 'There's a bill that would require (Internet service providers) to remove URLs from the Web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked.'

"Schmidt said content owners like Hollywood studios have a legitimate problem, since increasing trading of pirated movies threatens their revenue."

Among the bill's supporters are the Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So what would this piece of legislation do? Readwriteweb reports it would create an Internet blacklist.

"A few infringing links are enough to block a site full of legal material," Readwrite reports. "And sites become liable for user-posted content."

The BBC reportson what supporters of the bill are saying:

"MPPA said that SOPA would allow the US Department of Justice 'more effective tools to protect American intellectual property, including the films, television shows and sound recordings created by our members'.

"Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who introduced the bill, said the legislation is designed to 'stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites... that profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences'."

The blogging site Tumblr took a dramatic stand on the bill this morning. Users of the site are seeing elements of their feed covered in black, with the word "Censored" in white letters and all-caps.

"Congress is holding hearings today and will soon pass a bill empowering corporations to censor the Internet unless you tell them no," a message from the popular site reads.

h/t: NPR's Wright Bryan who noticed something odd while working on NPR's Tumblr page.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.