Lawmakers cautious about anti-piracy legislation after protest - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Lawmakers cautious about anti-piracy legislation after Internet protest

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

On Wednesday, more than 7,000 websites participated in an online protest against anti-piracy legislation currently being considered by Congress.

Wednesday's protest was started by the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. It took one of the more extreme approaches and blocked its entire English language site for the day. Google, well-known for using modified logos on holidays and anniversaries, instead covered its logo with a black rectangle. Other sites like Craigslist used informational pages encouraging users to contact their lawmakers before redirecting them to the regular website. Photo site Flickr allowed users to darken photos in protest.

The bills are mostly aimed at foreign websites that pirate movies, music and even pharmaceuticals. A grassroots organization called Creative America is lobbying for the legislation and is made up of companies like Sony, Disney and NBC Universal.

Opponents of the bills say they could target legitimate websites where users share content, would censor search results and even limit the artistic use of images and music. While they did not participate in Wednesday's protest, YouTube and Facebook have spoken out against the bills.

A vote on the Senate version of the bill, called the "Protect Intellectual Property Act" or PIPA, is scheduled for Jan. 24. The House version, called the "Stop Online Piracy Act" or SOPA, is moving much more slowly after all the controversy and isn't expected out of committee until February.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is a co-sponsor of PIPA. Last week, Grassley joined five other senators and asked that the PIPA vote be delayed in order to revise the bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid declined to change the vote, but encouraged the senators to amend the bill. Sen. Grassley issued this statement Wednesday:

"It's critical we protect the intellectual property rights of our businesses and fight online infringement, but at the same time, we can't do harm to the Internet, the Constitution, or the ability of businesses to grow and innovate. Internet piracy is illegal, and we need to find a way that works for all sides. The current Protect IP Act needs more due diligence, analysis, and substantial changes. As it stands right now, I can't support the bill moving forward next week."

Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley has spoken out against SOPA, the House version of the bill. He also issued a written statement on Wednesday.

"I strongly oppose SOPA, even though I remain concerned about the significant problem of online piracy. Over 800 Iowans have already contacted me expressing their opposition to SOPA, telling me it threatens free speech online. I agree. America's great strength has always been innovation built on the open exchange of ideas. Every new idea is built on the shoulders of those that preceded it. Limiting the free exchange of information online would stifle technological progress and put the United States at a competitive disadvantage with other nations. That's the wrong move for American innovation and advancement."

Over the weekend, the White House did not specifically address the proposed bills, but said it would support anti-piracy legislation as long as it does not infringe on free speech.

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