Fairbanks Daily News - Miner: Alaska Sens. Murkowski, Begich opposed to online piracy bill; Rep. Don Young undecided

FAIRBANKS — As waves of constituents voice their opposition to a pair of bills aimed at halting online piracy, Alaska’s senators announced Wednesday they plan to vote against the legislation.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, both released statements saying they oppose the Senate’s Protect Internet Protocol Act, saying the effort raises too many concerns about privacy and civil liberties.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, hasn’t taken a position on the House version of the bill, said spokesman Luke Miller, because it’s being reworked in committee. Young is waiting to see the result of that effort before deciding how to vote on the Stop Online Privacy Act, Miller said.

Both PIPA and SOPA have been the target of a vigorous lobbying effort by opponents before scheduled votes next week, and Alaska’s congressional delegation wasn’t spared.

Murkowski spokesman Matthew Felling said she had received an “unusually high” number of calls and emails from Alaskans opposed to the legislation. Begich’s office has seen a surge in contacts from PIPA opponents throughout the past week, said spokeswoman Julie Hasquet, and his website was one of a number in Congress that was periodically crashing Wednesday because of heavy traffic.

Miller said calls, emails and faxes to Young’s office unanimously opposed the current version of the House bill.

“If anything, this really is democracy at work in the digital age,” Miller said in an email.

The bills would allow the Justice Department, and copyright holders, to seek court orders against foreign websites accused of participating in piracy. They would bar credit card companies and companies like PayPal from doing business with an alleged violator and would forbid search engines from linking to such sites.

Critics say the rules would constrain free speech, curtail innovation and discourage new digital distribution methods. Search engines, Internet service providers and social networks could be forced to shut down websites linked to any type of pirated content, they say.

Lobbying efforts against the bills appear to be making a difference in Washington. President Obama announced his opposition on Saturday, and a pair of PIPA co-sponsors, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced Wednesday they were withdrawing their support.

Murkowski and Begich both released statements sympathetic to the effort to stop online piracy, but said the legislation currently being considered goes too far.

“PIPA was envisioned as a way to fight intellectual property theft online, but the bill raises serious concerns about our civil liberties,” Murkowski said in a statement.

But with committee overhauls of both PIPA and SOPA expected, Murkowski, Begich and Young all indicated they may support improved versions of the bills.

“I know there are efforts underway to rewrite this legislation with a more balanced approach,” Begich said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing what the bill looks like when it finally gets to the Senate.”


Source: By Jeff Richardson. Originally published on January 18, 2012