By Phillip Molnar, the Express-Times
Local congressmen spoke out this afternoon against a proposed Internet anti-piracy bill that prompted major websites to shut down in protest of its potential passage.
The Stop Online Piracy Act is designed to stop Internet piracy but has critics concerned it will limit freedom on the Web.
Among the critics are websites such as Google, Wikipedia and Reddit that have either shut off for the day or posted alerts to visitors.
A similar bill, the Protect IP Act is proposed in the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-Hunterdon, posted his opposition on Twitter, a website that also criticized the bills, this morning.
"#SOPA would make the internet less secure, less competitive, and -- worst of all -- less free. It will not have my vote," he wrote.
U.S. Timothy Holden, a Democratic northeast Pennsylvania congressman whose seat will include the Lehigh Valley once redistricting takes effect, actually withdrew his co-sponsorship of the bill.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Lehigh Valley, said in a news release "steps must be taken to prevent the illegal distribution of intellectual property" but that "SOPA -- as introduced -- is not the proper approach to addressing the growing problem."
Dent said he held out hope the recent exposure of the bill "will help generate a necessary dialogue about the need to combat the illegal activity of online piracy."
U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon, said SOPA would hamper the growth of the Internet.
"It is my opinion that the SOPA bill, as currently drafted, is overly broad and could discourage continued investment and innovation in broadband -- ultimately harming consumers and costing high-tech jobs," Lance said in a news release.
Congressman Scott Garrett, R-Warren, did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.
As written, the act allows companies to shut down websites they believe are violating their copyrights.
For example, 20th Century Fox could obtain a court order that would require search engines, such as Google, to remove links to a website where they claim "Star Wars" is being uploaded illegally.
Critics claim the acts will require websites to police themselves, which could be quite expensive and timely. They also worry smaller websites will not have the resources to fight legal claims by large media companies.
"These bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign websites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet," Wikipedia wrote on its website today.
A vote on the PIPA Act is planned for Tuesday in the Senate. A SOPA vote is not scheduled until February in the House.