Clarifying his support of a highly disputed bill aimed at thwarting Internet piracy, Sen. Bob Corker said Wednesday the Senate version of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was focused on "only foreign websites."
The bill, called the Protect IP Act, has come under fire from members of the online community who have expressed concerns that it would give the federal government the ability to block certain websites deemed as infringing on copyrighted intellectual property. But in an interview with WTVC News Channel 9, Corker said he believed the bill would not change the constitutional rights of Americans in any way.
"Obviously, the Internet has been one of the most powerful, freeing instruments that has occurred ever, and we want to keep it that way, but there are some websites set up in foreign countries whose sole purpose is basically to steal from Americans, to steal their intellectual property rights, and we see that in China and other places," Corker said. "I think the bill needs to be crafted in a more narrow fashion, to ensure that the focus is there and not on curbing those appropriate activities that we want to see take place and be done in a free environment."
While Corker did not mention any specific websites that the bills would target, he suggested that confusion about the repercussions of the measure stemmed from a "clumsy" markup process in the House, which took place in December, before recess. The senator also mentioned a recently added manager's amendment to the House bill, which he believed concerned citizens might not be aware of yet.
That amendment, introduced before the markup process to address concerns that the bill was in violation of First Amendment rights, would ensure that the government would not be able to block any particular website without first having a court order. It also clarifies what particular types of websites could be susceptible to enforcement actions.
Corker's support of the Protect IP Act recently has drawn ire from a newly formed group of users of the social news website Reddit, who have made it their goal to impede the senator's 2012 re-election efforts in a movement called "Operation Cork Screw."
Sen. Lamar Alexander is also a supporter of the Protect IP Act. As for the Tennessee delegation, both Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Jim Cooper have signed on as co-sponsors of SOPA.