The letter comes as House Judiciary committee members on Thursday debate the Stop Online Piracy Act introduced by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) that has drawn impassioned support from media firms but opposition by Web firms and some public interest groups.
At the hearing, California Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D) and Darrell Issa (R) have asked the committee to reconsider the bill and amendments to it in a hearing.
But many lawmakers of both parties are in support of the legislation.
“Because the U.S. produces the most intellectual property, our nation has the most to lose if we fail to address the problem of rogue sites,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith said in a statement.
Ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) said the bill should be passed to protect jobs.
“Online property crime robs American artists and harms American consumers,” Conyers said.
Engineers, however, have warned that the bills have been introduced without enough consideration of how laws would affect the Internet.
Vint Cerf of Google, domain name system software author Paul Vixie and Internet routing engineer Tony Li were among 83 high-profile engineers who signed an open letter to Congress in opposition to the House Stop Online Privacy Act and Senate Protect Intellectual Property Act.
“If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure,” the engineers wrote.
Joining the voices of civil liberties groups which initially criticized the bill, some journalists are joining their voices to the growing backlash against SOPA. As Elizabeth Flock explained:
As the Stop Online Piracy Act heads to a vote in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning, its opponents are lining up to stop it. The bill’s newest foe? Journalists.
First came the critiques of civil liberties and human rights groups. Then came the slams from Internet engineers and Web giants, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Wednesday, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) piled on by sending Congress a letter to ask that it stop the bill. ASNE represents newspaper editors, editors of wire services and online-only news organizations, and other journalists.
If passed, SOPA would expand the ability of law enforcement and copyright holders to shut down any site that hosts pirated content. But as the American Censorship group voiced on the blog Boing Boing on Wednesday, many believe “SOPA would not only hurt free speech, it will choke off the Internet workforce and its readers by taking down entire Web sites.”