Recently, the White House issued its first official statement regarding SOPA:
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.
Additionally, the statement mandated that all prospective legislatures must ensure that measures are taken to curb potential abuses that would result in the “online censorship of lawful activity” or that would stifle innovation. It also encouraged the public to supply input to their representatives as to how they could formulate a proper solution to the problem of online piracy. The statement comes after two petitions on the whitehouse.gov “We the People” section surpassed 50,000 signatures. “We the People” is a section of the White House web site that is dedicated to acknowledging the public’s opinion about legislature and is thus a method of keeping the public involved in law making. Short of contacting your local representative, it is the best way to make your voice heard.
Following this statement, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) claimed that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) promised to shelve the bill until a consensus can be reached:
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.
The voice of the Internet community has been heard. Much more education for members of Congress about the workings of the internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal.
Prior to this, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced before the weekend that the DNS redirection provisions in the bill would be removed:
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. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.
However, he still posits that the bill is necessary by stating that law enforcement upon “foreign thieves” who steal content isn’t censorship and that “Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack.” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also laments the loss of the provision, saying, “I regret that law enforcement will not have this remedy available to it when websites operating overseas are stealing American property, threatening the safety and security of American consumers.”
It is important to note that while the bill has been shelved, it is undergoing major revisions and is still alive and well. This bill is not dead and could be voted on at any time. Due to this, the SOPA blackouts that Wikipedia, Reddit, our own Gaming Bus, and a number of other sites have planned will still go ahead on Wednesday. Additionally, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) is also still up for vote on January 24th. This bill has an extremely high similarity to the SOPA bill that the industry is now so familiar with. Given that it has not been shelved, PIPA presents even more of a danger to the tech world than SOPA does.
Analysis: Our Editor-in-Chief Christopher Bowen stated that the removal of the DNS provisions shouldn’t be seen as a victory, and I fully agree with that. The only thing that can be considered a victory is the death of both SOPA and PIPA. Thus, the shelving of SOPA should not be seen as a victory, especially given that Congress has a habit of shelving legislature when it meets public opposition, only to vote on it when focus has been shifted elsewhere. The industry faces a real danger with this legislature, so pressure must be continually applied until both are dead. These bills are fundamentally flawed not just because of the provision akin to Internet censorship, but because they attempt to place the US’s authority on the web products of other countries. This is misguided at even the most basic of levels and deserves to be shut down.
For now, the industry needs to focus on killing PIPA before it comes to a vote. PIPA should be a priority for now, given that its voting day is so near. However, SOPA should not be forgotten as it is still very much a threat. The biggest mistake that the industry could make right now is thinking this is the end of SOPA. A number of sites have made this mistake already, only to be corrected by their readers.