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Washington Beat: Congress Forced To Take Another Look At Internet Piracy Bills

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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are being forced to reconsider bills against Internet piracy that were thought to be cleared for approval, as high-tech companies spotlighted on Wednesday their concern over what they feared would become Web censorship. NY1's Washington reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

As popular internet sites went black on Wednesday in protest of the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's Protect IP Act (PIPA), lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled to respond to the barrage of public comment... promising to go back to the drawing board.

"It's not in any way in its final format. It's still going through committee, it's being revised," said Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York. "I think there has to be a clear expression in the bill to protect the freedoms of expression."

But bill sponsor Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas argued SOPA is fine as is, striking the right balance in protecting intellectual property from online pirates and internet freedom.

"People like, say, Wikipedia today, it's so ironic that the website that is supposed to provide good information is unfortunately supplying misinformation," said Smith. "We're talking about illegal behavior on foreign websites. Domestic websites don't have anything to worry about."

Still, the tech industry is pushing for lawmakers to start from scratch...

"It's so broad in the way its written, it's so broad in scope that people think it's going to ruin the Web," said Lance Ulanoff of Mashable.com.

Smith wants to move SOPA forward, saying it has been amended several times, including last week to address concerns expressed by the White House. So far, Smith said the criticism has been anything but constructive.

"I haven't heard any ideas from the opponents as to how they would reduce that online piracy. I hope they have some ideas, we're still waiting," said Smith.

On Wednesday, House members said the ball is in the Senate's court, where a vote is expected on PIPA in the next couple weeks and could determine the direction of the debate.

"We'll be charting our course from there but I don't think this bill is dead. The problem exists and the problem is too serious to ignore," said Democratic Congressman Mel Watt of North Carolina.

Members of the tech industry said in the coming weeks they will start bringing their ideas to the table as well.

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