The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has raised a lot of controversy recently.  For a detailed discussion of SOPA and its provisions, refer to Brandon Trout’s blog post from November 2011.  On January 13, 2012, Texas congressman Lamar Smith announced that he would remove the Domain Name System (DNS) blocking provision from SOPA.  This provision would require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block websites that contain infringing content.

Though the House will remove the DNS blocking provision, SOPA will still allow officials to detach payment methods, like credit-card processing mechanisms, to infringing sites. The law would still require search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to remove illegal websites from their search results.  Copyright holders could also still bring claims against foreign websites that infringe on their technology and intellectual property.

Notably, Smith made the announcement to remove the controversial provision just before the Obama administration stated that it would not tolerate it. ”We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet,” said Obama’s technology advisors in a statement.

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, has voiced his opinions against the Obama administration for its criticism of SOPA.  Murdoch tweeted, “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.”  Murdoch also accused Google of piracy, claiming that Google streams pirated material and sells advertising against it.  Murdoch’s assertions do not cover the entire scope of the Obama administration’s statements.  The White House is in favor of new laws that would combat online piracy, but it says that the laws must be narrowly targeted.

Additionally, Senator Patrick Leahy has addressed the DNS blocking provision in the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which is the Senate version of SOPA.  For now, Leahy recommends that lawmakers study the DNS issue in greater detail before implementing it.

SOPA has been top news for weeks now, with opponents accusing Representative Smith and other supporters of trying to get rid of the Internet.  Google, Facebook, and Twitter have stated they are against the bill, and Reddit, Mozilla, Wikipedia, and WordPress are protesting SOPA today by going dark.

We will see what happens to SOPA.  Right now, what’s ironic is that Murdoch is using his Twitter account to voice his support for a bill that Twitter itself opposes.

– Sophia Behnia

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4 Responses to House Removes Controversial SOPA Provision

  1. Ben McKelvey says:

    Dodd’s response to the protest/blackout is mindblowingly absurd (thanks Brandon, above). It’s the websites that are engaged in an “abuse of power”??? Really?!?! Only a politician could say something so ridiculous…also Sophia, I love your observation about Murdoch using Twitter as a platform to criticize SOPA. Very sharp. Certainly undercuts the merits of his criticism.

  2. Brandon Trout says:

    A couple of interesting things:

    First, PIPA co-sponsor Senator Marco Rubio has officially withdrawn his support of PIPA. He cites the need to promote an “open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies.” Obviously, PIPA/SOPA in its current form would not be conducive to such goals.

    Second, has a very thorough analysis of PIPA/SOPA. It concludes that PIPA/SOPA (1)will not stop piracy (2) contain extremely broad language that is ripe for abuse, and (3) introduces censorship on what should remain a “free and open” internet.

    Finally, the MPAA has officially come out against today’s internet “blackout” protest. MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd claims (in all seriousness) that

    “It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”

    The irony of the MPAA’s position is obviously lost on Senator Dodd.

  3. Megan LaDriere says:

    I especially enjoy all websites that are speaking out against SOPA. Wikipedia has shut itself down for 24 hours and the Google main page has a black censor box over its name. I can only imagine how much awareness Wikipedia is bringing to the issue when all the people who use the site daily are blocked out from it!

  4. Jordan Teague says:

    Senator Murdoch claims that, without SOPA, innovate startups like Google and YouTube will “threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.” Yet the SOPA bill itself threatens to rob the entire Internet of freedom of expression. The bill places far too much weight on the interests of Big Copyright at the expense of legitimate speech and content. SOPA would empower goliaths like the RIAA to shut down entire websites on account of just one element of infringing content. This seems reminiscent of the notice-and-takedown provision of the DMCA, which has effectively enabled copyright owners to abusively suppress non-infringing web content. Given how much criticism the DMCA provision has received, I am disappointed that Congress is considering implementing even stronger statutory medicine that promises to poison the free Internet.