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Local Lawmakers React To SOPA Blackout Protest

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Opponents of SOPA and PIPA say the bills would stifle the structure of an open Internet.
Andreas Beer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tueksta/839920747/
Opponents of SOPA and PIPA say the bills would stifle the structure of an open Internet.

The one-day blackout of several popular websites has brought a flood of concerned calls to congressional offices about proposed internet piracy legislation. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are no strangers to lobbying blitzes, but the unorthodox protest from Wikipedia and other popular Websites over Internet piracy legislation has grabbed lawmakers' attention more quickly than many previous protests.

The staff of Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith spent today fielding a lot of calls about the protest, but the congressman says he's been most struck by the Internet blackout: "Not sure about shutting down Wikipedia. I haven't needed to use it today, but a lot of times I'll look little trivia facts up. But of course I use Google on a regular basis, so I think it's very effective."

The controversy is over the House's Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA. Its proponents say the legislation is needed to protect U.S. companies from overseas websites that steal intellectual property. But Google and the other protesting sites maintain provisions of the bill would force them to censor data.

Northern Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly says he thinks the legislation is too far reaching and could harm the Web: "I don't like the implications for the Internet and intellectual freedom."

After the Internet blackout, some lawmakers are dropping support of the online privacy bills. And last Friday, Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin pulled his support from the current Senate version of the bill.

Virginia Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott says the legislation is evolving so he can't say if he even supports it or not: "We have to look at what bill we're voting on. We're not voting on the original version. And so I'm not sure what the final version will be that we'll even vote on; it clearly will not be the original version."

Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte is on the House Judiciary Committee, which is planning hearings on the bill. He says the two sides of the debate are talking past each other by holding events like Wednesday's blackout. The Senate is scheduled to vote on its version of the online privacy bill on Tuesday.

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