Guild seeks balance between anti-piracy, net neutrality

The Writers Guild of America East announced that it “strongly supports” a pending bill in Congress aimed at shutting down or cutting off websites devoted to trafficking in pirated material.

WGAE president Michael Winship and exec director Lowell Peterson appeared at a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday along with a group of writer members to support the Protect IP Act, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

But they also used the occasion to push for more robust net neutrality rules, suggesting that they could co-exist with effective anti-piracy efforts.

“It is critical that the potential of the Internet and other digital media — their diversity, accessiblity, competitiveness and imagination — not be stifled by multinational corporate behemoths that would restrict access for their own commercial use,” Winship said.

The WGAE has in the past warned that if anti-piracy efforts are too broad, they could have the unintended effect of restricting the free flow of content and an advantage over independent content creators. In its filings with the FCC in 2009 supporting net neutrality, it wrote, “Everyone opposes car theft, but no one proposes that we restrict access to the highways.”

Among those appearing at the WGAE hearing was Tom Ruprecht, Daryn Strauss, Thom Woodley, Julie Ann Emery, Thomas Poarch, Michael Kantor, Gina Gionfriddo and Duane Tollison.

The Protect IP Act would would authorize the Justice Department to seek a court order directing third parties — search engines, payment processors, advertising networks and Internet providers — to cease providing transactions and support to overseas sites engaged in online infringement. Some tech firms and digital rights groups are pushing for changes to the legislation, citing free speech concerns.

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