European Parliament joins criticism of SOPA

Top EU lawmakers say the US must refrain from unilateral measures revoking IP addresses

The European Parliament has added its voice to those criticizing the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States criticizing the use of domain name seizures by U.S. authorities on copyright 'infringing' websites.

On Friday the parliament adopted, by a large majority, a resolution that "stresses the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names."

The move comes after more than 60 civil and human rights organizations wrote a letter to Congress on Tuesday calling for the rejection of SOPA. The letter argues that the act "is as unacceptable to the international community as it would be if a foreign country were to impose similar measures on the United States".

SOPA would enable the U.S. government to block access to websites internationally. This not only includes the .com domain, but also .net and .org, domain names which are used by millions of organizations outside the legal jurisdiction of the United States. But civil liberties groups say that the definitions in SOPA are so broad that it could be interpreted so that no online resource anywhere in the world would be outside U.S. jurisdiction.

"In recent years, the United States has been increasingly using the fact that much of the Internet's infrastructure and key businesses are under U.S. jurisdiction in order to impose sanctions on companies and individuals outside its jurisdiction. This started two years ago when the domain names of a Spanish company owned by a British businessman were removed by a U.S.-based registrar. The company was never accused of breaking Spanish law," said digital civil liberties group EDRi in a statement.

The European Parliament's resolution will now be forwarded to the European Commission, the leaders of the European Union member states and the U.S. Congress ahead of the E.U.-U.S. Summit on Nov 28.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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