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House committee appears headed toward approving SOPA

The Judiciary Committee rejected several amendments focused on tech concerns about the bill

By Grant Gross
December 15, 2011 09:34 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee slowly moved toward approval of the controversial copyright enforcement bill Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), although the panel was able to debate only about half of the planned amendments to the bill Thursday.

As of 9:15 p.m., the committee, by wide margins, had voted to reject more than 20 amendments meant to address concerns by many members of the technology and civil liberties communities. The hearing will continue into Friday and maybe longer.

The committee rejected an amendment offered by Representative Darrell Issa that would have stripped out controversial provisions in the bill targeting search engines and Internet service providers.

SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders requiring Internet service providers to filter out the domain names and requiring search engines to block the websites that are accused of infringing copyright. Issa's amendment would have killed the provisions related to the domain name system.

The committee voted 22-12 against the Issa amendment, in a vote that could foreshadow strong support for SOPA in the committee. The Issa amendment would have removed some of the most contentious parts of SOPA, including concerns that the legislation would cause problems with security in the DNS, supporters argued.

If the committee eventually votes to approve SOPA, the legislation would go to the House floor. The legislation would also have to pass through the Senate before going to President Barack Obama for his signature or veto.

SOPA would empower the DOJ and copyright holders to target news sites that link to allegedly infringing sites, Issa said. Once U.S. authorities start blocking links and censoring Web content, "you start a snowball effect to which there is no end," he added.

SOPA's search engine provision would be ineffective, added Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat. Even if U.S. search engines block links to foreign websites, it would be simple for Web users to find other search engines, she said. "The fact that we would try to disappear a site on a search engine doesn't disappear the site," she said.

SOPA supporters said the other provisions of the bill, which would allow the DOJ and copyright holders to seek court orders blocking payment processors and online advertising networks from doing business with foreign sites accused of infringing copyright, would not be effective enough to fight foreign websites that sell infringing products.

Under U.S. law, there's a "gaping loophole" shielding foreign websites from the reach of the DOJ, said Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican. "While it continues to be a tremendous, transformational medium, the Internet has also made it easier than ever in the history of the world to steal other's ideas and works," he said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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