Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., renewed his fight over online piracy legislation Thursday by announcing he will again block it from moving to the Senate floor.
Wyden said he has placed a "hold" on the legislation, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is aimed at cracking down on foreign websites that offer pirated content and counterfeit goods. A hold prevents Senate leadership from obtaining agreement to bring a bill to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could get around a hold by seeking a cloture vote, which would require 60 votes, on allowing the bill to proceed to the floor for debate.
"In December of last year I placed a hold on similar legislation, commonly called COICA, because I felt the costs of the legislation far outweighed the benefits. After careful analysis of the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA, I am compelled to draw the same conclusion," Wyden said in a statement Thursday. "I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective."
A group of Internet engineers released a paper Thursday that raised concerns with a provision in the bill that would require Internet service providers to redirect requests for domain names linked to websites that offer pirated content or counterfeit goods. The paper notes that the engineers do not oppose strong enforcement of intellectual property rights. "The DNS [domain name system] filtering requirements in the PROTECT IP Act, however, raise serious technical concerns," it said.
A spokeswoman for Leahy said he did not have any comment on Wyden's move, saying the Judiciary Committee's unanimous vote for the bill speaks for itself.
The bill is strongly backed by IP groups who argue that law enforcement needs more tools to address the growing threat to U.S. innovation posed by rogue foreign websites. Such sites offer illegal access to U.S. television shows and movies and counterfeit or stolen copies of U.S. drugs, luxury items and other goods.
"Today's decisive action by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the PROTECT IP Act sends a clear message that rogue sites--those devoted to the sale of counterfeit goods or distribution of pirated content--have no place in the legitimate marketplace," David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center, said in a statement.