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Proposed US piracy legislation labelled draconian by Schmidt

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Google chairman Eric Schmidt has lambasted the US government's attempts to stop online piracy, saying the proposed new laws are "draconian".

America's lawmakers are trying to stem the tide of web piracy and keep their entertainment behemoths happy with two new pieces of legislation.

The Stop Online Piracy Act is currently being debated in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act is being argued over in the US Senate.

The bills would give copyright owners and the cops more powers to close down websites and would also force web firms like search engines and payment collectors to block access.

"The solutions are draconian," Reuters reported Schmidt saying during an appearance at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "There's a bill that would require [ISPs] to remove URLs from the web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked."

Schmidt said content owners like the mighty Hollywood studios did have legitimate reason to be p***ed off because "their business models are being threatened by theft", and added that Google didn't condone this kind of behaviour.

But he would prefer rules that were based on tracing payments to naughty websites instead of the legislation currently on offer.

Schmidt's complaints come on the heels of a letter opposing the Acts sent to the US government earlier that day.

The letter, signed by Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo! and Zynga, said the tech companies were "concerned" about the new regulations:

We cannot support these bills as written and ask that you consider more targeted ways to combat foreign "rogue" websites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting, while preserving the innovation and dynamism that has made the internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.

We are very concerned that the bills... would seriously undermine the effective mechanism Congress enacted in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to provide a safe harbour for internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites.

The DMCA's safe harbour provisions for online service providers have been a cornerstone of the US internet and technology industry's growth and success.

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