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PIPA and SOPA: What you need to know

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The original bills would have let copyright holders and Internet service providers block access to pirate websites. Critics and Internet engineers complained that would allow copyright holders to interfere in the behind-the-scenes system that seamlessly directs computer users to websites. They said that causing deliberate failures in the lookup system to prevent visits to pirate websites could more easily allow hackers to trick users into inadvertently visiting websites that could infect their computers. The White House also took issue with that approach, saying "We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet."

Responding to the critics, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said he is taking the blocking measure out of his bill. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also is reworking his bill to address those cybersecurity issues.

Q. What are other concerns with the bills?

A. Critics say they would constrain free speech, curtail innovation and discourage new digital distribution methods. NetCoalition, a group of leading Internet and technology companies, says they could be forced to pre-screen all user comments, pictures and videos — effectively killing social media. Search engines, Internet service providers and social networks could be forced shut down websites linked to any type of pirated content.

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