Controversial US Internet piracy law shelved


Controversial legislation proposed in the USA has been shelved after the US Congress voted to postpone action on the the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act.  The bills were aimed at preventing online piracy, but met with furious opposition from internet and freedom of speech activists who claimed that the legislation placed the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material for links to copyright material, and would lead to the unnecessary and counter-productive blocking of entire sites.

The promotors of the bills were backed by the Motion Picture Association of America and large media moguls like Rupert Murdoch.  The media organisations claim they need such drastic censorship to protect themselves from piracy and financial loss due to copyright violation.

Last Wednesay internet users and prominent websites staged a day of protest against the legislation, including a censored Google Doodle and a blackout of Wikipedia.  In a statement Wikipedia said:  “If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.”

Following the protests, several lawmakers withdrew their sponsorships of the bills, while others came out in opposition.  President Obama’s administration has also made clear its opposition to parts of the legislation.

Opponents claim that existing legislation is already strong enough to protect the interests of copyright owners, pointing to this week’s shut down of the file uploading site Megaupload as an example.  Megaupload’s owners have been arrested and charged with conspiracy after the site was accused of repeatedly hosting copyright material such as the latest movies.