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2012 & Beyond: Debate Over Online Privacy Legislation Continues


Epoch Times Staff
Created: December 30, 2012 Last Updated: March 28, 2013
Related articles: United States » National News
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Two key pieces of legislation killed in Congress in 2012 will likely return full force in 2013—bringing with them fresh debates regarding online privacy. 

The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261), introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), which intended to end online piracy by blocking websites accused of copyright infringement, was shot down in January over concerns that its reach was too broad. However, according to leading First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams, the bill would have given the government better means to protect the intellectual property of Americans.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S. 2105), introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), which would have created voluntary cybersecurity standards for privately owned companies, was killed by a Senate Republican filibuster on Aug. 2. John O. Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, said on Aug. 8 that a White House executive order may be considered to push cybersecurity legislation forward. 

Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 30 years, revealed this year that new anti-piracy legislation is in the works. 

Aside from debates regarding cybersecurity and piracy, there have been strong underlying discussions on Internet privacy.

“We have not proposed, nor would we ever support, attempts to block political websites, censor social media, or silence artists because of what they want to say,” wrote Dodd in a Huffington Post entertainment blog.

The State Department is strongly committed to advancing both Internet freedom and the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights on the Internet.

—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (H.R. 3782), introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), would address unfair trade practices surrounding infringement of copyrights and trademarks by websites. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and Internet on Jan. 25.

Some wonder if whether strong cybersecurity legislation would require businesses to open their networks to government tracking. Others wonder whether a website comment linking to copyright-infringing content could be scanned or reported, thereby forcing the website offline. 

“The State Department is strongly committed to advancing both Internet freedom and the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights on the Internet,” wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to Dodd. “Indeed, these two priorities are consistent.”

Some speculate that anti-piracy legislation could potentially affect the ability of Internet providers to keep track of customer activity or to report any activity that could violate copyright laws. 

These dynamic discussions on Internet privacy, cybersecurity, and online piracy, as well as further efforts to enforce relative legislation, are expected to continue throughout 2013.

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