Prez peppered with SOPA questions

In Google+ chat, Obama answers queries on anti-piracy legislation

President Obama on Monday evening participated in a Google+ “hangout,” answering questions via video chat as he sat in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

Not surprisingly, Obama was asked about the administration’s stance on the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was sidelined recently after a storm of online protest that the legislation would alter the architecture of the Internet and jeopardize web freedom.

He called on both sides — the bills put Hollywood and Silicon Valley at odds — to come together on a solution that makes sure “that intellectual property is protected” but also does not affect “the fundamental integrity of the Internet as an open system.”

“When SOPA came up on the Hill, we expressed some concerns about the way that the legislation had been written, told folks let’s go back to the table and figure something out that works for everybody,” Obama said.

The Hollywood lobby said the White House criticisms of the legislation gave credence to claims that it was a threat to free speech. Moreover, they said it may have helped give fuel to the online protest that saw Wikipedia and thousands of other websites go dark in protest and Capitol Hill offices flooded with emails calling on legislators to stop the bills.

In a sign of how polarizing copyright issues have become, Steve Grove, the moderator of the Google+ web chat, told Obama that the most popular question submitted was: “Why are you personally supporting the extradition of U.K. citizen Richard O’Dwyer for solely linking to copyright infringing works using an extradition treaty designed to combat terrorism and to bring terrorists to judgment in the USA?”

The domain of O’Dwyer’s site was seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in June, and he was charged with conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. The U.S. has been trying to extradite him, and earlier this month a U.K. judge ruled that the transfer of O’Dwyer to the U.S. to face the charges could go forward. O’Dwyer, a college student, argued that his site merely linked to other sites that hosted pirated content.

Obama, however, said he “is not personally doing anything” about O’Dwyer’s extradition.

“One of the ways our system works is the President doesn’t get involved in extradition decisions and prosecutions,” Obama said, adding that those decisions are left to the Jusitice Department.

According to the U.K. court, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must confirm the order for extradition, after which O’Dwyer can appeal in Great Britain.

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