Anti-online piracy laws: Cantwell opposed, Murray and Herrera Beutler undecided

Google, Wikipedia and other high-profile websites have blacked out parts of their pages today, and Washingtonians are flooding their Congressional members with requests to fight two pieces of legislation to crack down on Internet piracy.

Critics say that although the Stop Online Piracy and PROTECT IP acts are meant to battle the piracy of copyrighted material by foreign websites, the proposals have negative unintended consequences. Mainly, they don’t protect against false accusations of piracy, and websites that rely on user-generated content could be held legally responsible for materials posted to their sites by often-anonymous Internet users.

The proposals have received bipartisan support from some members of Congress, and so far only one of the three Congressional members representing Southwest Washington has taken a stance on the issue.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, has come out against PIPA. She also has cosponsored an alternative piece of legislation called the “Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade” – or OPEN Act. Cantwell said her proposal is a narrower approach to fighting online piracy sites while addressing the concerns of SOPA and PIPA protesters.

Democrat U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office told a reporter from the Pacific Northwest Inlander that she has received pressure to support PIPA, but that she remains undecided on the issue.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican, did not provide a firm answer when asked about SOPA on Monday. She said she would need to do more research on the bill, but added that she has concerns about what the proposal could mean for consumers and free enterprise.

U.S. senators are expected to vote on PIPA this month, and at least two senators who initially supported the proposal have come out against it.

On Twitter, many users posted tweets similar to this one: “I just contacted Sen. Patty Murray to oppose #SOPA/#PIPA – Join me!”

One Twitter user linked to the response letter he received from Cantwell’s office.

“On November 17, 2011, I signed a letter along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) objecting to (PIPA) as it is currently written,” the letter said. “I am deeply concerned that the definitions and the means by which the legislation seeks to accomplish these goals will have unintended consequences and hurt innovation, job creation, and threaten online speech and security.”

UPDATE 1/19/2012 1 P.M.

Sen. Murray tweeted yesterday:

“Protecting IP is vital for jobs & econ in WA, but I have real concerns with #SOPA & #PIPA as currently drafted. Changes should be made. -PM”

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