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Leahy: Wikipedia, Reddit 'Hiding Behind' Black Box of Censorship

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) who continues to push for his PROTECT IP antipiracy bill, said the Web sites that plan to go dark Wednesday in protest of that and the House Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are hiding behind the "black box" of self-censorship and will be unaffected by the bill, which gives the Justice Department and the industry more power, and the industry greater protections, in their battle against online piracy, including TV shows and movies.

Those sites, which include Wikipedia and Reddit, say the bills are heavy handed and threaten legitimate sites and the openness of the Internet. But Leahy says that Congress must act to address the damage of online infringement and piracy and that his bill will not affect either of those sites or any others doing legitimate business. Leahy last week announced he was removing the portion of his bill that allowed for domain name blocking, which had been arguably the hotbed issue of late with critics. But that was not enough to assuage those critics, who are proceeding with the planned Wednesday protest.

"Protecting foreign criminals from liability rather than protecting American copyright holders and intellectual property developers is irresponsible, will cost American jobs, and is just wrong," Leahy said in a statement.

Leahy's Senate bill looks headed for a floor vote next week, while a floor vote on the House bill is not imminent after pushback from powerful Web players, including Google.

The issue is growing in importance for the TV industry as more content is moving to, and originating on, the Web. The FCC has also signaled it expects the Internet to be the eventual home of most video.

Former senator Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, was equally displeased with the Web blackout protest. "Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging," he said in a statement.  "It's a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests. A so-called 'blackout' is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals."