There have been major developments in the story surrounding the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), including an important volley of statements made between the White House, the Congressmen responsible for SOPA, and several important parties whose interests lay with the bill's passing.
"While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," said the White House statement, which was released on the White House blog Saturday, referencing another statement from the administration, Thursday.
The White House statement went on to indicate that while Barack Obama's administration is for legislation regulating online piracy, it would need to target more explicitly criminal activity. The Obama administration authors of this statement got more specific about what aspects of SOPA "increased cyber-security risk," with the mention of DNS regulations in SOPA.
"Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security," said the statement. "Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online."
It is significant that the White House would make specific mention of the DNS provision in SOPA, because this has been widely considered by SOPA's opponents as its most draconian aspect. The DNS provision allows both the US Government and copyright holders to file court orders to block the Domain Name Systems (DNS) of websites associated with pirating or counterfeiting copyrighted property, which would effectively prevent users from visiting said sites.
However, the DNS provision of SOPA had already been addressed by Rep. Lamar Smith the day previous to the White House's statement, last Wednesday. "After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision," said Smith, via a statement.
This sentiment was echoed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Friday, when he said that he would not bring the bill to the house floor until "a real consensus" was reached. Cantor's attitudes concerning SOPA were relayed in a statement by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
"While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House," said Issa. "Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote."
SOPA's sister bill in the Senate the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which essentially proposes the same measures as SOPA, is still in play, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stating that he plans to bring up PIPA on the first day the Senate is back in session, Janury 24th. However Sen. Patrick Leahy, the author of PIPA, stated something very similar to Rep. Smith, that the DNS measures in PIPA needed more study before going to a vote.
Those Internet companies who have opposed SOPA and PIPA are counting both the White House's position and the subsequent Congressional backpedaling as a victory.
“Like others, we believe Congress wants to get this right, and we know there are targeted and smart ways to shut down foreign rogue Web sites without asking U.S. companies to censor the Internet," said a director of public policy at Google, Pablo Chavez, to the NY Times.
“Looks like the Internet is winning a battle against some really bad potential law,” stated Craig Newmark of cragislist.org, in a blog post.
Also chiming in, regarding this most recent dialogue between top government seats, was General Manager of Reddit Erik Martin, who expressed both encouragement and fear about the eventuality of SOPA/PIPA passing to become federal law. Reddit, along with MoveOn, BoingBoing, and the Cheezburger network, will stage a site blackout on Wednesday, January 16.
Others making their voices heard in the most recent round of the SOPA debate, included vocal SOPA supporters News Corps CEO Rupert Murdoch. "So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery," said Murdoch, via his Twitter account.
“Look forward to @whitehouse playing a constructive role in moving forward on #sopa & #pipa,” stated the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), another SOPA supporter, via its Twitter account.
VatorNews will show solidarity with Reddit and other SOPA/PIPA opponents by reporting only minimal news coverage Wednesday, in observance of their blackout.
[Image Credit: Kotaku]