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Wednesday January 18, 2012 | 03:39 PM

Maine members of Congress oppose the internet anti-piracy legislation that generated a wave of online protests today, including blackouts at prominent web sites such as Wikipedia.

None of Maine’s two U.S. House members or two U.S. senators is a co-sponsor of the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or the Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). And none of the four Maine lawmakers are members of the House and Senate judiciary committees that crafted the bills.

There has been intense public opposition from technology companies, web sites and internet users who say the legislation would result in censorship and impose regulatory and legal burdens that would force some sites to close.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, says the legislation, designed to stop online pirates from stealing movies or music or selling 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.

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

But Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the bill needs “significant revision” before it should be allowed to move forward in the Senate.

“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,” Collins said in a statement. Collins says she shares "the legitimate concerns that the anti-piracy legislation, as currently drafted, needs significant revision. 

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, said in a statement that he agrees “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 shutdown legitimate websites, violate people’s rights and censor the internet.”

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

While Snowe has worked to combat online piracy and protect intellectual property rights, she also wants to protect openness and access on the internet, said Chris Averill, Snowe’s spokesman.

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

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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