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Residents react to proposals intended to thwart piracy

In the last 24 hours, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., was hit with a stream of comments from people saying lawmakers have "gone too far," said Don Canton, communications director for Hoeven.

Canton said the general attitude of the public seems to be that the Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act, two bills that could potentially shut down sites that share pirated movies and other content and are believed to threaten legitimate websites, should not be passed. Period.

The response to the proposed bills arrived immediately following online protests initiated by websites such as Wikipedia, Google and on Wednesday.

Canton said Hoeven agrees there are "problems with the bills in their current form."

"The senator believes, bottom line, we need to continue to work on these issues and the bills," Canton said. "Whatever passes needs to protect the free exchange of ideas and First Amendment rights, while at the same time preventing the theft of intellectual property."

Hoeven was not the only one who heard from patrons opposing the pending U.S. legislation. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., was also a target of public comments.

"Like many Congressional offices, we received a number of contacts (Wednesday) about the legislation, and they are currently being reviewed," said Sean Neary, a spokesperson in Conrad's D.C. office.

Neary said SOPA is a version of legislature that was proposed by the House of Representatives, while PIPA was proposed by the Senate. He added that SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders requiring online advertising networks, payment processors, and other organizations to stop payments to websites accused of copyright infringement.

The Senate is expected to vote on PIPA next week, and there could still be significant changes to the bill as lawmakers continue to propose amendments, Neary said. He also said Conrad "feels piracy of intellectual property is a legitimate concern that should be addressed."

Molisa Derk, a computer science professor at Dickinson State University, has studied online piracy laws and agrees with the idea that pirating digital content is "not real practical," mostly because it is against the law. But she understands why it is so popular.

"It's cheaper to download digital than it is to buy a physical thing," Derk said.