Google Inc. (GOOG) Chairman Eric Schmidt assailed Hollywood-backed legislation aimed at curbing online piracy, saying that measures under consideration by the U.S. House and Senate would spur censorship of the Internet.
Requiring Internet-service providers and search engines to remove links to websites accused of trafficking in counterfeit movies and music would amount to “censorship” and set a bad example for other countries, Schmidt said today after a speech in Washington.
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Dec. 15 on a bill supported by movie studios and the recording industry that would let the U.S. Justice Department seek court orders forcing Internet-service providers, search engines, payment services and advertising networks to block or cease business with non-U.S. websites linked to piracy.
“Their goal is reasonable, and the mechanism is terrible,” Schmidt said during a question-and-answer session with reporters. “By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet. By doing so it’s a form of censorship.”
Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is moving ahead with the Stop Online Piracy Act, which he introduced. The measure has the support of more than two dozen lawmakers in both parties.
The Motion Picture Association of America, which backs the House and Senate bills, said the legislation is needed to preserve U.S. jobs and intellectual property. The Washington- based group accused Google’s Schmidt of using “sky-is-falling rhetoric” to attack the measures.
“There is broad recognition that all companies in the Internet ecosystem have a serious responsibility to target criminal activity,” Michael O’Leary, senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs at MPAA, said in an e-mailed statement. “This type of rhetoric only serves as a distraction and I hope it is not a delaying tactic.”
Google, Facebook Inc. and other Web companies said in a Nov. 15 letter that the House measure and a similar bill in the Senate would create “new uncertain liabilities” for Internet companies and asked lawmakers to seek “more targeted ways” to combat “rogue” websites in other countries.
Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, unveiled a draft measure meant as an alternative to the Hollywood-backed bills. The Wyden-Issa proposal would give the International Trade Commission the lead role in fighting foreign websites trafficking in illegal content and counterfeit goods.
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