Lawyer: SOPA anti-piracy proposal is First Amendment-approved

With PROTECT IP on hold, the Motion Picture Association of America has thrown its support behind Congressman Lamar Smith’s new Stop Online Piracy Act. The organization and its affiliates asked respected intellectual property and First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams to read through the bill and discern if it was constitutionally sound.

Lawyer: SOPA anti-piracy proposal is First Amendment-approved

“[SOPA] is consistent with the First Amendment,” wrote Abrams in a letter (.pdf) sent to Smith and the House Judiciary committee. The expert, however, warned that “the evident constitutionality of injunctive relief for copyright violations does not mean, to be sure, that injunctions must automatically or always be issued in response to a copyright violation, nor that the seizure powers under the copyright law must be exercised without due regard to First Amendment considerations.”

The anti-piracy bill grants the U.S. Attorney General greater power to combat copyright infringing websites both domestically and globally. “The Stop Online Piracy Act helps stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators,” explained Rep. Smith (R-TX).

Abrams agreed with Smith’s aim and touted SOPA’s three-step copyright infringement test as an improvement over COICA and PROTECT IP, but urged the Congress to tread carefully.

“As with any statute impacting speech, Congress must consider the potential overbreadth of the Stop Online Piracy Act’s regulatory structure, both in how it is drafted and how it should be applied, in light of such First Amendment considerations,” said Abrams.

Several companies including Google, Facebook and Mozilla sent their own note (.pdf) to ranking Judiciary Committee members on Tuesday to criticize SOPA and reaffirm opposition to PROTECT IP.

“We are very concerned that the bills as written would seriously undermine the effective mechanism Congress enacted in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to provide a safe harbor for Internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content for their sites,” said the group.

That letter will have to do. Just one vocal SOPA opponent has been asked to attend tomorrow’s House session, reported CNET. Katherine Oyama, Google’s policy counsel, will be flanked by five SOPA supporters.

One vocal opponent that won’t be represented at the event is the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF previously dubbed SOPA “disastrous.”

Rebecca Jeschke, media relations director for the EFF, told MyCE via email that the group wasn’t pleased with Congress’ lopsided decision.

“A lot of people, companies, and organizations are against this dangerous bill, and we are saddened that Congress won’t hear from more opponents at this hearing,” said Jeschke.

Look for more news on SOPA following tomorrow’s scheduled hearing. (via MPAA)