21 Jan 2012

US puts online anti-piracy bills on hold

8:47 am on 21 January 2012

The United States Congress has halted debate on two contested anti-online piracy bills in response to widespread criticism of the proposed legislation.

The decision follows protests by online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, and thousands of other websites, which went dark in protest for 24 hours earlier this week, the BBC reports.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that in light of recent events he was postponing a vote on the Protect IP Act (Pipa) that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Mr Smith said he took seriously the concerns raised by critics of proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy.

"It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith then said his panel would not consider the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) until a compromise was reached.

A handful of co-sponsors for the Pipa bill have withdrawn support, as did some congressmen, as floods of emails and phone calls to lawmakers followed the online protests.

More than seven million people signed a petition on Google saying that passage of the legislation would result in censoring the web and impose a regulatory burden on businesses.

The BBC reports that both bills focus on responding to online piracy, specifically illegal copies of films and other media and would make it illegal for sites to contain information about how to access blocked sites.

The Motion Picture Association of America, a key supporter of the legislation, has campaigned strongly against the violation of copyright laws.

On Thursday evening their website was targeted by a hacking group known as Anonymous.

Creative America, a group supported by studios and unions that fights piracy, is campaigning in favour of the bills.