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Legislators Propose Alternative Framework for SOPA

Congressional critics of the studio-backed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) have introduced a "legislative framework" for an alternative bill.

Their bill would update U.S. trade laws to reflect that illegally downloading protected content-- like a movie or film -- from a foreign-owned Web site is akin to illegally importing foreign hard goods.

They said in announcing move Friday (Dec. 2) that creating a "21st century trade policy" will combat infringement while ensuring the continued free flow of legitimate commerce and speech. The bill would allow a U.S. rights holder to petition the International Trade Commission to launch an investigation into digital imports and have the ITC decide whether they violate intellectual property rights. They said using the trade laws avoids the "pitfalls" of SOPA, which they argue is too broad, allows the government and industry too much power to take down sites on mere suspicion, does not define what justifies closing down an entire site, and essentially threatens the openness and innovation of the Web.

"By putting the regulatory power in the hands of the International Trade Commission -- versus a diversity of magistrate judges not versed in Internet and trade policy -- will ensure a transparent process in which import policy is fairly and consistently applied and all interests are taken into account," they argue. "When infringement is addressed only from a narrow judicial perspective, important issues pertaining to cybersecurity and the promotion of online innovation, commerce and speech get neglected."

The legislators who came up with the new framework are Reps. Anna Eshoo both D-Calif.; Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Lloyd (D-Texzx), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Warner (D-Va.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

SOPA is supported by the chair and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.