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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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SOPA Goes Through Staged Compromise, Still Censorship

December 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The notorious internet censorship bill known as SOPA is going to mark-up in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and ahead of the meeting the committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX], has pulled a neat little trick. Smith has come out with a manager's amendment that eliminates the most insanely unconstitutional elements of the bill, leaving behind an expansive censorship system for the government and the entertainment industry that is meant to seem reasonable by contrast.

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The bill to give corporations and the government new powers to block websites without having to seek court approval is expected to be voted on in the Senate in the next few days or weeks. The PROTECT-IP Act, which is companion legislation to the House's SOPA, has already been voted out favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee and can be called to the floor for a vote any day.

According to folks in D.C., Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is planning to promote it on the floor by giving it the bogus label of "jobs bill." We've already seen this strategy used succesfully by congressional leaders this year to pass big-business handouts (e.g. patent reform legislation and free trade deals) despite the fact that independent analysis shows that they will stifle small-business innovation and kill more jobs than they create. Let's stop them from doing it again with internet censorship. 

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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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Shutting Down Sites With #SOPA

November 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

According to OpenCongress user adipesh, a little provision buried in Title I, Section 103 of the Stop Online Piracy Act, wit the innocuous-sounding title, "Relief," gives the entertainment industry a tool to shut down websites without having to prove their case in court.

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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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Congressional Leaders Intro Massive E-PARASITE Act

October 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Powerful House Republicans and Democrats have taken two of the most unpopular bills in the Senate, combined them into one big bill, and amended them to make them even worse. Oh, and they gave the whole thing a new name -- the E-PARASITE Act.

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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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About the only things getting real bipartisan love in Congress these days are Hollywood-backed bills to make the government a more powerful force in online copyright enforcement. I wrote about one already that would make streaming of copyrighted content a felony with jail time as a possible penalty. The other is S.968, the PROTECT IP Act,that would empower the Department of Justice to demand search engines and domain registries to block websites they determine are "dedicated to infringing."

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With Congress gridlocked on everything the public actually cares about -- e.g. the unemployment rate and the federal debt -- they seem to have found at least one thing they can all agree on. Big media companies and the Obama Administration have been asking Congress to change the copyright laws so that people who stream copyrighted content on the internet, whether intentionally or not, can be put in jail or charged massive fines. The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the idea on June 1st and the Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee is moving forward with a mark-up of legislation to do so tomorrow. Don't you just love bipartisanship?

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Wyden Vows to Kill the Internet Censorship Bill

November 22, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act has all the qualities of a bill on the fast track for becoming law. Its chief sponsor is the chairman of the committee it was referred to, it has a long list of bipartisan cosponsors, including a mix of conservative and liberal senators, and it was reported out of committee by a unanimous 19-0 vote. But, last Friday, Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] threw a log in its path by announcing that he would do everything within his means to stop the bill if it is brought to the Senate floor.

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