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WSU Prof: Public Pressure Forcing Changes In SOPA

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A Wayne State University law professor says public pressure is forcing changes in proposed laws designed to prevent content piracy on the Internet.

Aaron Perzanowski, assistant professor at the Wayne State University Law School, said the Obama administration’s comments over the weekend “made it clear that the president isn’t going to be able to support the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House or the Protect Intellectual Property Act in the Senate.”

That’s important for a number of reasons, Perzanowski said.

“It shows the Internet companies have gotten their act together and mobilized opposition, and I think Congress and the administration are feeling that pressure,” Perzanowski said. “More importantly I think the administration’s response was the product of over 100,000 online petition signatures against SOPA.”

In general, Perzanowski said, “the public comes down on the side of a free and open and innovative Internet.” But, he said, “it’s important not to minimize the concerns of copyright holders. They do have legitimate worries, especially about Web sites outside the United States and support a great deal of copyright infringement, Pirate Bay being the best example.”

Perzanowski said there’s a legislative alternative to both SOPA and PIPA. Called OPEN, it’s a bipartisan alternative sponsored by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden in the Senate and California Republican Darryl Issa in the House. It would move Internet piracy issues to the International Trade Commission for oversight and action.

The issue is coming to a head soon, A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 18 on SOPA in the House, and the Senate is scheduled to vote Jan. 24 on PIPA.

As bad as opponents claim SOPA is, the original was worse, Perzanowski said — a copyright holder could simply claim infringement and demand that the companies who run the Internet’s domain name servers shut down any Web site or face liability for infringement.

Perzanowski has taught copyright law at Wayne State since 2008. Prior to joining the Wayne Law faculty, he served as the Microsoft Research Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology at the UC Berkeley School of Law. He previously taught cyberlaw and intellectual property law for the information industries at the UC Berkeley School of Information. He practiced law at Fenwick & West LLP in San Francisco. He earned his law degree from the University of California Berkeley in 2006.

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