SOPA meets strident opposition at House hearing

Several lawmakers worry bill is being pushed too fast

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"All we are trying to do is to stop online piracy," said Conyers during today's hearing. "What could be the motive behind people or organizations that don't think stopping online piracy" is important, he said.

"If somebody thinks a bill of this magnitude will get stalled because we will get tired..., (they) have got it wrong," he said.

Goodlatte said that SOPA would address a "gaping loophole" that allows piracy; he vowed to press on, as well.

Critics contend that the bill could lead to an Internet censorship regime where content and IP owners would have inordinate power to shut down not just rogue foreign sites, but U.S. sites, too.

They argue that any website hosting user-generated content, such as a YouTube or a Flickr, would be vulnerable to SOPA's provisions.

Currently, the Digital Millennium Copy Right Act (DMCA) allows content holders to ask sites like YouTube to take down infringing content. But the sites themselves have a Safe Harbor from prosecution.

SOPA critics contend the law would let content owners do an end run around those protections.

Jared Polis, (D-Colo.), warned that the search engine suppression and DNS blocking provisions built into SOPA would "Balkanize" the Internet.

Rep. Dan Lungren, (R-Calif.), expressed concern over the uncertain security implications of such measures and suggested the committee should hear from Internet security experts before moving ahead.

"Why is there this rush to judgment?" Lungren asked. "Why can't we slow down and take a look."

Lungren insisted that his call for testimony from experts was not an effort to stop the bill but to simply better understand its technical and security implications.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, (D-Calif.), said it would be "preposterous" to ignore the serious technical and security concerns that have been raised about SOPA by some of the Internet's leading scientists and architects.

Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.), one of the most vocal opponents of the bill, insisted that SOPA as written is not ready for prime time and insisted that several changes need to be made to make it more acceptable.

He dismissed suggestions that the bill is aimed only at foreign sites and called SOPA "a domestic bill lock, stock and barrel."

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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