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Big online business 'open' to Stop Online Piracy Act alternative

Internet giants — including eBay, Google, Facebook and Twitter — reportedly are considering a simultaneous “blackout” of their sites in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Now they are throwing their weight behind an alternative bill.

The Stop Online Piracy Act has been slammed publicly by Internet companies since it was released a few months ago. Under the act, the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders could seek court orders against websites accused of copyright infringement. Those orders could include bans on networks and payment facilitators that would prevent them from doing business with the allegedly infringing websites, barring search engines from linking to them, and requiring that Internet service providers block access.

The (very vocal) opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act say compliance amounts to Internet censorship and would increase compliance costs for organizations dramatically.

A compromise could be on the horizon, however: The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act has been introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) as an alternative to the Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate counterpart PROTECT IP.

The OPEN Act would allow intellectual property holders to petition the International Trade Commission to investigate whether a foreign website’s only real purpose is to infringe on U.S. copyrights and trademarks. Proponents say OPEN takes a narrower and more targeted approach to combating online infringement than other proposed legislation does.

The OPEN Act ensures that only legitimate cases are pursued, and provides clear standards for companies to follow in enforcing intellectual property rules, supporters add. AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo and Zynga have written a joint letter announcing their support. The Internet companies say OPEN correctly targets “rogue sites” rather than law-abiding Internet companies.

And of course, OPEN has the support of — rather than vitriol from — such Internet giants as Google and Facebook. That’s likely to be a major factor as the infringement laws move through the ranks in the next several months. But OPEN has powerful critics as well: The entertainment industry, for one, says OPEN would not effectively prevent piracy, which was one of the major drivers of SOPA. Stay tuned.

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