Lawmakers opposing the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act have introduced alternative legislation in the US House of Representatives.
Representative Darrell Issa and 24 co-sponsors introduced the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act late on Wednesday, the same day many websites went dark in opposition to SOPA and the Protect IP Act, a similar bill in the Senate.
The OPEN Act would allow copyright holders to file complaints about copyright infringement at foreign websites with the US International Trade Commission, which would investigate the complaints and decide whether payment processors and online advertising networks should be required to cut off funding. Senator Ron Wyden introduced a Senate version of the OPEN Act in December.
"OPEN is a targeted, effective solution to the problem of foreign rogue websites stealing from American artists and innovators," Issa said. "Today's Internet blackout has underscored the flawed approach taken by SOPA and PIPA to the real problem of intellectual property infringement. OPEN is a smarter way to protect taxpayers' rights while protecting the Internet."
By contrast, SOPA would allow the US Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders requiring payment processors and ad networks to stop doing business with foreign websites accused by the plaintiffs of copyright infringement. SOPA would also allow the DOJ to seek court orders requiring search engines and possibly other websites to stop linking to sites it accuses of infringing copyright.
SOPA would also give Internet service providers, domain name registrars and other online service providers immunity from lawsuits if they voluntarily cut off service to websites accused of infringing.
Opponents of SOPA and PIPA say the bills don't give owners of foreign websites enough due process, and could cut off legitimate free speech on websites that have a mix of content.
But Representative Lamar Smith, SOPA lead sponsor, said the OPEN Act wouldn't do enough to stop the billions of dollars in online piracy and counterfeiting that happens every year. The OPEN Act "may make the problem worse," Smith said.
The Consumer Electronics Association, a vocal opponent of SOPA, applauded Issa and the other sponsors for introducing the OPEN Act.