After two days of acrimonious debate, the House Judiciary Committee postponed further action on Friday on a bipartisan bill that would authorize new tools for tackling the growing problem of online piracy and counterfeit goods on foreign websites.
Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the panel will resume consideration of the bill when the House is back in session. House lawmakers could meet again next week depending on maneuvering over a payroll tax package.
"I am pleased that the unfounded claims of critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act have overwhelmingly been rejected by a majority of House Judiciary Committee members," Smith said in a statement. "Members consistently voted by a 2-1 margin to defeat amendments that would have made it more difficult to stop the problem of counterfeit products and online theft of America's intellectual property."
The legislation would give the attorney general authority to seek a court order that could require payment processors and online advertisers to stop doing business with sites "primarily dedicated to illegal or infringing activity." The bill also would allow a court to bar search engines from returning results for such sites and order service providers to block U.S. users from accessing the sites. The measure has strong backing from a broad coalition of copyright and trademark holders.
A bipartisan group of committee members, including Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., have led a spirited effort to amend the bill to address what they say are key flaws that will harm innovation, free speech and the integrity and security of the Internet.
Opponents, however, made little headway in their efforts to make key changes to the bill. The committee dealt with more than two dozen amendments during two days of debate. And supporters appear to have more than enough support to move the bill out of committee based on the roll call votes on critics' amendments.
"It is clear from the last two days that the House Judiciary Committee is genuinely struggling with the serious, complicated and highly technical issues raised by the Stop Online Piracy Act," said Markham Erickson, executive director of NetCoalition, which represents Amazon, eBay, Google and other tech companies opposed to the Judiciary bill. "NetCoalition is encouraged that Chairman Smith is considering the requests of many on the committee that additional hearings be conducted, particularly on the issue of Internet security, in order that the committee be fully briefed on the potentially serious and negative consequences that the proposed legislation would create."
Smith said Friday that he would consider a request by some members to hold another hearing on the bill to more closely examine how the measure may affect efforts to bolster the security of the Internet's domain name system, according to his spokeswoman.
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