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As grassroots opposition to the internet censorship bills known as SOPA and PIPA continues to build, the entertainment industry and their allies in Congress are scrambling to move them forward as quickly as possible. Here's an update on where things stand at the moment and what to expect when Congress comes back from the holiday recess.

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On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that would create the first ever mass internet censorship system in the U.S., all in the name of protecting Hollywood from filesharing. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, as well as the backing of the powerful music and movie industries, so it's expected to pass if it gets a vote. There was some hope, however, that Wednesday's hearing would be an opportunity for Congress to hear from some of the industries and interests that don't think the bill is such a hot idea. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to be the case.

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Should Congress Be Afraid of Online Piracy?

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

One of the only things Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem to agree on these days is passing legislation aimed at stopping copyright infringement on the internet. For years, members of Congress from across the political spectrum with financial backing from copyright industries have been pushing for new powers for the government and copyright owners to restrict channels for sharing content online. Just last week a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act, that would criminalize a lot of really standard YouTube behavior and allow copyright holders to block access to websites without a court order. By all accounts, the bill is going to be fast-tracked through Congress in the coming weeks. But is copyright infringement on the internet even a real problem?

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S.978 Could Put Bieber in Jail

October 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

If there's one bill in Congress that pits people of all political stripes against big corporations and the politicians they fund, S.978 is it. The bill would make web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a prison sentence of up to 5 years. That means you could go to jail for posting a video to YouTube with the wrong background music, all in the name of protecting big media companies that don't want to update their old business models for the age of peer-to-peer sharing.

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House Advances Internet Surveillance Bill

August 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Under the title the "Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act", Congress is advancing legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement to access information about the online activities of all Americans, regardless of whether or not they are suspected of having committed a crime. By a 19-10 vote, the bipartisan bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27th, as the media frenzy around the debt ceiling debate was consuming virtually all the attention being paid to Capitol Hill. It will now move to the full House floor for a vote on passage. Unless perceptions of the bill shift dramatically, it is expected to pass and move to the Senate.

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The House is back in session this week, and they're kicking off their return with a vote on a bill that seems to be popular with members of Congress, in both parties, but hugely unpopular with just about everyone else -- renewing the USA PATRIOT Act. That's right, the Republicans' bill to extend a few controversial surveillance programs that are set to expire at the end of this month (see below for explanation) has been rushed to the floor calendar without a single committee hearing or a proper mark-up. As you can see on the schedule below, they are trying to pass it under the suspension of the rules procedure, which means that there will only be 40 minutes of debate allowed and no amendments can be offered.

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There's not a whole lot these days that the Republican House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate are eager to work on together. But there is at least one thing. On February 28th, three controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act are scheduled to expire, and in the past couple of weeks Democrats and Republicans in both chambers have introduced several bills to reauthorize and extend them. In both chambers the committee chairmen who will be in charge of bringing the bills to the floor for votes have already signed on as supporters.

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