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PIPA and SOPA: What you need to know

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On the House side, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., issued a statement that he had heard from many of his constituents and come to the conclusion that the House and Senate bills "create unacceptable threats to free speech and free access to the Internet."

Here are some of the some of the questions being raised about the bills being considered:

Q. Why is legislation needed?

A. There's no argument that more needs to be done to protect artists, innovators and industries from copyright thieves and shield consumers from products sold on the Internet that are fake, faulty and unsafe. Creative America, a coalition of Hollywood studios, networks and unions, says content theft costs U.S. workers $5.5 billion a year. The pharmaceutical industry loses billions to Internet sellers of drugs that are falsely advertised and may be harmful.

Q. What is Congress trying to accomplish?

A. The two main bills are the Protect Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA, in the Senate, and the similar Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the House. There are already laws on the books to combat domestic websites trafficking in counterfeit or pirated goods, but little to counter foreign violators.

The bills would allow the Justice Department, and copyright holders, to seek court orders against foreign websites accused of perpetrating or facilitating copyright infringement. While there is little the United States can do to take down those websites, the bills would bar online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as credit card companies and PayPal from doing business with an alleged violator. It also would forbid search engines from linking to such sites.

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