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A better approach to policing the Internet

The Jan. 3 editorial “A fair block on Internet piracy” rightly called the House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a threat to legitimate Web sites. Inexplicably, the editorial proceeded to endorse its companion legislation in the Senate, calling the Protect IP Act (PIPA) a “more prudent approach.”

Far from a prudent approach, PIPA provides the legislative foundation for Internet censorship. The surest risk of censorship comes from PIPA’s broad definition of piracy sites as those that enable or facilitate copyright infringement. As numerous PIPA opponents have pointed out, this definition is ripe for abuse, especially in the hands of overzealous copyright owners. Given that the enforcement of the act would fall to the judicial system, PIPA would open the floodgates of litigation just as wide as would SOPA.

Neither SOPA nor PIPA will achieve what their drafters have in mind.

Fortunately, there is bicameral, bipartisan legislation, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN), put forth by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), that would accomplish the dual goals of fighting counterfeiters while maintaining Internet freedom.

The OPEN Act is not only a more prudent approach than SOPA or PIPA, but it is also the only way we can truly protect the Internet and copyright owners.

Gary Shapiro, Arlington

The writer is president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association.

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