Online piracy, intellectual property acts losing support in Columbia

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | 8:40 p.m. CST; updated 11:43 a.m. CST, Thursday, January 19, 2012

COLUMBIA — One of Columbia’s representatives in Congress has withdrawn his support for the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

Sen. Roy Blunt said in a statement Wednesday there are “substantive issues” remaining in the bill in its current form that need to be resolved before it can move forward in the U.S. Senate.

According to The Associated Press, the Protect Intellectual Property Act and the similar Stop Online Privacy Act in the U.S. House would allow the Department of Justice to ban online advertising networks and payment facilitators, such as credit card companies, from conducting business with websites accused of copyright infringement.

Sen. Claire McCaskill and 9th District U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, have yet to decide on their respective bills, which also would forbid search engines from linking to pirate websites and require Internet service providers to block access to such sites.

“I continue to believe that we can come to a solution that will cut off the revenue sources for foreign websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy that steal American jobs, hurt the economy and harm consumers,” Blunt's statement said. “But the Protect IP Act is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.”

According to information provided by the senator's staff, Blunt had concerns about the broad nature of the bill and its possible impact on lawful speech, especially online. Blunt was also concerned about breaches in cybersecurity and provisions in the bill that could result in costly litigation.

At least five other senators withdrew their support Wednesday, three of whom had joined Blunt as co-sponsors of the proposed act.

McCaskill needs more time to study the Property Intellectual Property Act, spokesman John LaBombard said.

“The provisions of this legislation are in flux,” LaBombard said in an email. “While Claire wants to make sure we can catch the frauds and cheats, she also has real concerns about limiting the freedom of the Internet. She will continue to evaluate as the provisions are finalized.”

Paul Sloca, press secretary for Luetkemeyer, said the congressman was weighing input from constituents and wants to hear from more stakeholders before making a decision on the Stop Online Privacy Act.

“Ultimately, Blaine believes we must combat online copyright infringement,” Sloca said in an email. “And that Congress, with the input of affected industries, can produce a policy that better protects American intellectual property rights.” 

The House is not expected to vote on the bill for at least another month.

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