Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Tuesday his bill rivaling the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act pending in the U.S. Congress now has more co-sponsors than SOPA.
Issa, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Guidance, told a Washington meeting and webcast organized by SOPA opponents he will formally introduce his competing Online Enforcement and Protection of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) on Wednesday and It will have more co-sponsors in the House than SOPA has in the House.
Last week, Issa and his co-sponsor, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told International Business Times they were optimistic their law would prevail against SOPA and the companion Senate bill, the Protect IP Act.
Issa briefly joined a webcast convened by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to marshal support against both SOPA and PIPA, charging they would restrict free speech, stifle Internet innovation and squelch domestic job creation.
On Wednesday, global digerati including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales plan an Internet protest against SOPA, with Wikipedia going dark.
On the webcast, Veoh founder Dmitry Shapiro, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, recounted how his streaming content media site was effectively ruined by litigation brought by Universal Music Group for alleged copyright infringement. Investors, including former Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner, were sued as individuals.
Shapiro said the lawsuits choked the company to death and ultimately forced its sale. He warned that either SOPA or PIPA would have the same effect on other Internet startups.
Still more harmful would be a system that would permit copyright holders alleging infringement to seek a U.S. magistrate's permission to get an order to shut down a whole business without a court hearing, said Jayme White, senior staff director for the Senate Finance Committee on International Trade.
Wyden is chairman of that subcommittee.
Other Internet pioneers, including Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Jared Friedman of Scribd, all condemned SOPA and said it is a threat to free speech and communications.
The controversial bill was proposed last year by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, after complaints about copyright infringement from major publishers and Hollywood studios like Viacom and News Corp.
Smith held one hearing on the law last November, during which Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was berated.
Subsequently opponents mounted a campaign which led to the Wyden-Issa bill, which would send copyright disputes to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the quasi-judicial Washington agency that handles patent and dumping disputes and can also levy fines.