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SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, Stirs Controversy

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New legislation to combat online piracy has created outrage in the tech community. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, as well as a slew of bloggers and large tech companies, have spoken out against the proposed bill.

The House's Stop Online Piracy Act--as well as its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act--would give copyright owners broad new powers over their work. According to Reuters, the legislation would allow copyright holders and law enforcement officials "to cut off websites and require search engines, payment collectors and others to block access."

TechCrunch's Jason Kinkaid called SOPA "bad news" and Mike Masnick at TechDirt pointed out that, in a study conducted through Columbia University, 56% of people surveyed opposed government involvement in blocking access to pirated materials.

Reuters reported that Schmidt called the bills "draconian" and a form of "censorship" while speaking at MIT on Tuesday. In a letter to Congress, several major tech companies (including Google and Facebook) also warned that the legislation could be a threat to both innovation and cybersecurity.

Despite Silicon Valley outrage, the bills have gained considerable support from the entertainment industry. The Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Assocation of America--the trade group's of the movie and music industry--have lobbied extensively in favor of the legislation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also expressed support.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss SOPA. The Protect IP Act was already passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.

It's worth noting that while Hollywood has lobbied strongly for the proposal, a similar bill proposed in September 2010 was killed in the Senate.

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