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Momentum Seems to Shift in High-Tech Battle Over Internet Piracy Legislation

House blocks Stop Online Piracy Act deliberations as White House decries censorship and obstacles to innovation

Controversial anti-piracy legislation appeared to stall over the weekend as opponents representing America’s high-tech industries won two significant victories.

Late Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., announced that a vote on the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, would be delayed indefinitely, until “a consensus” could be reached. Hours later, the White House weighed in with a denunciation of Internet censorship.

Responding to online petitions attacking the legislation — SOPA in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, in the Senate — the Obama administration on Saturday rejected key elements of the bills.

“We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” the White House said in a statement. “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 House Judiciary Committee was expected to vote on SOPA as early as Jan. 25. Issa said that won’t happen.

“The voice of the Internet community has been heard,” Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement.

“Much more education for members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal.”

The bills, backed in large part by the entertainment industry, would grant the federal government the power to block access to Web sites and services that use or host pirated content, whether in the United States or internationally. The government would also be able to force Internet service providers, online advertisers and credit-card companies to stop doing business with accused Web sites.

Free-speech advocates and a growing number of high-tech companies — including Noozhawk — have mobilized against the bills. They say the laws would threaten free speech, stifle innovation and cripple small businesses, and that piracy can be attacked through other means.

Reddit and several other prominent Web sites have planned a blackout for Wednesday to demonstrate to Web users how the legislation could negatively affect their Internet access. As of Sunday, many of the sites are still planning to go black in support of the anti-SOPA cause.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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