WASHINGTON – Maine’s members of Congress say they oppose the Internet anti-piracy legislation that prompted a wave of protests Wednesday, including stoppages by websites like Wikipedia.

As phone calls, emails and tweets poured into their offices expressing opposition, the Maine lawmakers said the legislation in its current form would do more harm than good and threaten the openness and innovation that flourish on the Internet.

Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree said the proposed legislation, which aims to stop online theft of movies or music and sales of counterfeit versions, is too vaguely worded.

“All a big entertainment or Internet company would have to do is claim that a website is somehow linked to piracy and it would immediately be blocked and censored,” Pingree said. “Just imagine the chilling effect that would have. The Internet was built on openness and innovation, not censorship.”

There has been intense opposition from technology companies, websites and Internet users who say the legislation would lead to censorship and impose costly legal burdens that would force some sites to shut down.

The House bill is the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the Senate bill is the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

The sheer volume of emails and Web traffic appeared to crash the U.S. Senate Web server for a time Wednesday, temporarily shutting down senators’ websites.

Pingree’s office got hundreds of phone calls and emails — none in favor of the legislation, said Willy Ritch, Pingree’s spokesman.

Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud’s office got about 800 emails alone, all in opposition, said Michaud’s spokesman, Ed Gilman.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to hold a procedural vote next week on the Senate version of the bill to determine whether it has the 60 votes it needs to move forward.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said in a prepared statement that she doesn’t believe the Senate bill, in its current form, will be approved.

“I share the legitimate concerns that the anti-piracy legislation, as currently drafted, needs significant revision,” Collins said. “Rather than the Senate moving too quickly on the Protect IP Act, we should instead proceed cautiously, in an open and fair amendment process, to ensure that the legislation is narrowly tailored to target criminals while also preserving the integrity of the Internet.”

Michaud said in a statement that “we need to crack down on websites in places like China that infringe U.S. copyrights and hurt our businesses. But it must be done in a way that doesn’t shut down legitimate websites, violate people’s rights and censor the Internet.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said through a spokesman that she, too, would vote “no” on the Senate bill in its current form.

While Snowe has worked to combat online piracy and safeguard intellectual property rights, she wants to protect Internet access, said Chris Averill, Snowe’s spokesman.

“As Senator Snowe reviews this wide-ranging legislation, she has concerns that we cannot have a federal overreach of authority that would hamper innovation or compromise the inherent openness and freedom that are part and parcel of the Internet,” Averill said.

None of the Maine lawmakers serves on the House and Senate judiciary committees, which crafted the bills.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

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