The U.S. Congress has suspended action on SOPA following opposition to the legislation from the White House.
I don’t think any piece of proposed legislation has ever been the subject of condemnation and opposition as widespread as that of the Stop Online Piracy Act, better known far and wide as SOPA. A number of prominent game developers and publishers have come out against the act [although the Entertainment Software Association, unfortunately, remains a supporter] and many high-profile websites, including Reddit, Mojang and Boing Boing, intended to “go black” on January 18 in protest. The backlash against it was quite literally unprecedented.
And, rather amazingly, it seems to have worked. On Saturday, the Obama administration, which had until that point not taken a position on the issue, came out against the bill with a statement posted on the White House Blog. “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,” it said.
“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,” it continued. “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. 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. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.”
Shortly after that, the U.S. Congress shelved the bill. “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,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said in a separate statement. “Majority Leader [Eric] 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.”
Prior to the stepdown, SOPA’s sponsor, Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, made a “major concession” by agreeing to drop a provision in the act that required internet providers to block infringing websites. Even with that provision removed, however, Issa described the bill as “fundamentally flawed.” Another SOPA-like bill could always be proposed at some point in the future [and, let’s face it, almost certainly will] but for now, I think we can call this a win.