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SOPA meets strident opposition at House hearing

Several lawmakers worry bill is being pushed too fast

December 15, 2011 08:13 PM ET

Computerworld - A controversial bill to prevent online piracy by rogue foreign sites appears poised to pass the House Judiciary Committee despite strident opposition from some lawmakers.

At a sometimes contentious hearing held Thursday to mark up the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), several lawmakers expressed concern over the speed with which the proposed legislation is being pushed through the House.

Several called on Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, (R-Va.), to schedule a hearing for experts who could testify on the security and technical ramifications of the proposed legislation; others wanted more time to digest recent amendments.

There was little indication that either of those requests were likely to to be entertained. And proposal after proposal to amend the bill to make it more palatable to opponents were shot down, raising the possibility that it will go to the full House soon.

Committee members met into the evening to discuss proposed amendments after a request to adjourn failed on a voice vote.

The SOPA bill has been at the center of a raging controversy since it was introduced earlier this year by Smith, along with John Conyers, (D-Mich.), Bob Goodlatte, (R-Va.), Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and several other lawmakers.

The measure would give U.S. law enforcement authorities, as well as copyright and IP owners, more tools to go after foreign websites dedicated to copyright infringement, IP theft and counterfeiting.

The original version contained provisions that would have given copyright and IP owners the right to ask online advertising networks and payment service providers such as MasterCard and PayPal to cut off services to allegedly infringing sites. An amended version introduced Wednesday now requires content and IP owners to get a court order before they pursue such action.

However, several other controversial provisions remain largely intact. One is a provision that would let the government ask ISPs to use DNS blocking, filtering and other "feasible and reasonable" methods to cut off access to foreign infringing websites from the U.S. It would also let the government order search engine companies such as Google to disable links to infringing sites in search engine results.

Supporters of the bill insist such measures are needed to counter the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of IP and content annually by websites outside the reach of U.S. law. The have repeatedly said that SOPA is solely focused on the most egregious foreign websites.



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