CES 2012: Consumer Electronics CEO Blasts SOPA as Threat to Innovation and Freedom

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By David Zielenziger | January 11, 2012 6:37 AM EST

Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro Tuesday denounced the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act pending in the U.S. Congress as "terrible," a "threat to innovation" and potentially destructive legislation.

Shapiro spoke before his Arlington, Va.-based trade group, which represents the $190 billion U.S. electronics industry, as it opened its International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

"The drafters of this legislation are profoundly unaware of how the Internet works," Shapiro told an audience of about 3,000 just before introducing Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs. He asked technology professionals to "fight this terrible, ill-intentioned bill."

SOPA is pending before the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Shapiro, a former corporate lawyer, knocked SOPA's backers as "well-heeled copyright and patent lawyers who seek to inhibit free thought and speech," blasting broadcasters and publishers like News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Viacom that had originally propounded the law.

Indeed, executives of these companies are attending CES, showing off their programs, which can now be streamed or broadcast directly to smartphones, laptops and other products.

Shapiro lauded a competing bill, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN), co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Wyden is scheduled to address a private lunch convened by Shapiro in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Technology leaders including Google Chairman Eric Schmidt testified against the SOPA law before Smith's committee in November.

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