White House concerned over online piracy bills

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration raised concerns Saturday about efforts in Congress that it said would undermine “the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” urging lawmakers to approve measures this year that balance the need to fight piracy and counterfeiting against an open Internet.

White House officials said in a blog post that it would not support pending legislation that “reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk” or undermines the global Internet, cautioning the measure could discourage innovation and startup businesses.

“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,” the White House said.

The administration was responding to measures that would allow the Justice Department to target offshore websites — through Internet service providers — that offer illegal copies of music, movies and television shows online. The Senate is expected to consider similar legislation later this month.

Tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others have questioned the legislation, warning in a Nov. 15 letter that it would force new liabilities and mandates on law-abiding technology companies and require them to monitor websites. “We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity,” the letter stated.

The White House said in the blog posted Saturday that it would work with Congress on legislation to help battle piracy and counterfeiting while defending free expression, privacy, security and innovation in the Internet.

The post was signed by Victoria Espinel, the intellectual property enforcement coordinator at the Office of Management and Budget; Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s chief technology officer; and Howard Schmidt, an Obama adviser on cybersecurity.

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