Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) formally introduced a copyright bill backed by the Internet industry to rival the controversial Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Issa's bill, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN), is co-sponsored with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, filed the bill late Wednesday, as Internet activists mounted a global protest against both SOPA and PIPA.
In a statement, the conservative Republican said the alternative is a targeted, effective solution to the problem of foreign rogue websites stealing from American artists and innovators, because it would empower the U.S. International Trade Commission to handle disputes and levy sanctions.
Like SOPA, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and PIPA, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the OPEN sponsors represent an usual mix of liberals and conservatives.
Conservative sponsors include Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), while liberals include Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Silicon Valley's Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).
Global digerati spearheaded by online sites including Wikipedia, Google and Reddit launched global opposition to both SOPA and PIPA Wednesday because they believed would threaten Internet commerce and creativity. Later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted anti-SOPA comments.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, went dark Wednesday, along with about 340 others whose proprietors are members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Meanwhile, advocates of SOPA, pending before the House, and PIPA, introduced in the Senate, received tub-thumping backing from proponents such as the Motion Picture Association and Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal.
Motion Picture Association President Chris Dodd, who served as a Democratic senator from Connecticut until 2010, termed the protests an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely upon [the websites] for information and use of their services.
Dodd, who compiled a liberal record over 30 years in the Senate, blasted the Internet blackout as yet another gimmick designed to punish officials working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.
Both SOPA and PIPA would empower copyright holders such as publishers and movie studios to seek federal warrants to arrest and close down Internet sites alleged to be pirating material.
The Wall Street Journal, owned by News Corp., which also owns Twentieth Century Fox and Fox Broadcasting, berated the protestors as analogous to Occupy Wall Street, charging, Their real ideological objection is to the concept of copyright itself.
The Internet controversy has also spurred bipartisan efforts to both defend copyright while implementing less drastic sanctions than arrests and closedowns of websites.
The OPEN law would allow copyright holders to complain to the International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body in Washington which currently is hearing Apple's infringement complaints against Samsung Electronics and other companies. The ITC has the power to impose fines, bar imports and handle international commerce.
Issa cancelled a hearing on Domain Name Sites Wednesday, saying he had received assurances from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that DNS blocking provisions had been removed from SOPA.
Issa and Wyden told International Business Times last week they hoped OPEN would ultimately be passed. On Tuesday, Issa told a Washington webcast convened against SOPA and PIPA that OPEN now had more co-sponsors than SOPA.
Issa said conservatives such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had stopped supporting SOPA.
In the Senate, two more conservatives, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) announced their opposition to SOPA and PIPA. The two Republican senators based their opposition on fears the more restrictive laws would stifle Internet commerce and job creation.
Meanwhile, Google, the world's biggest search engine whose chairman, Eric Schmidt, was berated during a November SOPA hearing by Smith, posted a black smudge over its usual logo in its home page on Wednesday.
Rivals, such as Yahoo, Microsoft's Bing and Lycos, appeared to take no action. Nor did corporate sites of leading technology companies such as Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Texas Instruments, Microsoft and Apple -- all known for vigorous protection of the intellectual property.