06/01/2011 11:17 am ET | Updated Aug 01, 2011

Wyden Again Halts the Internet Censorship Bill

Senator Wyden continues to be the Senate's truest champion of an open Internet. On Thursday he placed a hold on PIPA (formerly COICA) a new bill that would "muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth."

PIPA would give the government the power to force Internet service providers, search engines, and other "information location tools" to block users' access to sites that have been accused of copyright infringement -- creating a China-like censorship regime here in the United States.

Opposition to the bill is snowballing: Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently came out against the legislation, saying "[If] it's passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States, and we disagree with it, then we would still fight it... If it's a request, the answer is we wouldn't do it."

Last week Demand Progress and more than a dozen human rights and civil liberties groups sent a letter in opposition to PIPA to Sen. Leahy, its author, cautioning that the bill "risks setting a precedent for other countries, even democratic ones, to use DNS mechanisms to enforce a range of domestic policies, erecting barriers on the global medium of the Internet." The full letter is posted here.

Also last week, Demand Progress was (proudly) subject to a scurrilous attack by the Motion Picture Association of America because torrent site Demonoid linked to us. This attack reveals PIPA's proponents' warped sense of how the Internet works, or should work -- a world where sites that link, and sites that are linked to, are responsible for each other's actions.

Here's Wyden's statement:

Consistent with Senate Standing Orders and my policy of publishing in the Congressional Record a statement whenever I place a hold on legislation, I am announcing my intention to object to any unanimous consent request to proceed to S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act.

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. 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. At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA's prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.

The Internet represents the shipping lane of the 21st century. It is increasingly in America's economic interest to ensure that the Internet is a viable means for American innovation, commerce, and the advancement of our ideals that empower people all around the world. By ceding control of the Internet to corporations through a private right of action, and to government agencies that do not sufficiently understand and value the Internet, PIPA represents a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives. Until the many issues that I and others have raised with this legislation are addressed, I will object to a unanimous consent request to proceed to the legislation.