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ONLINE PIRACY BILL THREATENS FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) issued the following statement in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  Rep. Engel opposes online piracy, but SOPA goes too far in infringing upon First Amendment rights.  Rep. Engel is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“In its current form, this legislation takes America in the wrong direction.  I would vote against it if it came to the full House in its present form.  While online piracy is a real problem and must be addressed, this version goes too far.  I am pleased to see that the Senate  Majority Leader has decided not to send their version to the Senate floor.  The House Judiciary Committee Chairman has said modifications are needed.   I look forward to working with my House colleagues to make needed modifications. 

“SOPA would have authorized felony penalties for willful, unauthorized streaming of commercially valuable copyrighted material for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain.  Current felony offenses would have been expanded and even extended to certain non-commercial transmissions.  The goal of the bill – to stop the stealing of intellectual property is laudable.  However, under the current version of the legislation, almost anything could be called piracy. YouTube, for example, could face piracy charges because some videos include bits of copyrighted material; and Facebook could because people often link to copyrighted videos and songs. Google and Bing might have to resort to deleting every link to a questionable Web site, which could be a massive and unreasonable problem for them.

“This is just too large of a step without providing the necessary First Amendment protections.  I believe we can have intellectual property protection and unfettered access to online content.  I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to find a solution which provides both of these things.”

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