Despite having earlier declared his intention to progress the passage of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives, Lamar Smith, the measure’s chief sponsor, has now said he would remove a controversial provision from the bill until further study takes place.
“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,” Smith said in a statement.
Domain Name System (DNS) blocking was a key part of the SOPA legislation that blocked foreign websites accused of copyright infringement.
Smith’s move follows a similar announcement from Senator Patrick Leahy, in relation to the Senate version of SOPA, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
While DNS blocking will be removed, SOPA will still allow the US government to track funds and cut off payment options to illegal sites overseas. Search engines such as Google would also be required to remove infringing sites from their search results.
“Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack,” Smith said.
SOPA opponents had argued the legislation would destroy the Internet , with websites such as Reddit planning to go dark in protest of the bill.
As a consequence of Smith’s decision, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced that a hearing scheduled for January 18, which was to examine the impact of DNS and search engine blocking on the Internet, has been postponed following assurances that anti-piracy legislation will not move to the House floor this Congress without a consensus.
“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. 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,” said Chairman Issa. “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.”
“Earlier tonight, Chairman Smith announced that he will remove the DNS blocking provision from his legislation. Although SOPA, despite the removal of this provision, is still a fundamentally flawed bill, I have decided that postponing the scheduled hearing on DNS blocking with technical experts is the best course of action at this time. Right now, the focus of protecting the Internet needs to be on the Senate where Majority Leader Reid has announced his intention to try to move similar legislation in less than two weeks.”
Chairman Issa intends to continue to push for Congress to heed the advice of Internet experts on anti-piracy legislation and to push for the consideration and passage of the bipartisan OPEN Act, which provides an alternative means for protecting intellectual property rights without undermining the structure and entrepreneurialism of the Internet.