SOPA author and US Representative Lamar Smith of Texas has removed a controversial component of the bill, which would have required Internet Service Providers to block access to non-US websites accused of copyright and piracy violations.
According to an official statement released from his office today, after consulting with “industry groups across the country,” Smoth removed DNS blocking from the bill so the Committee could “further examine the issues surrounding the provision.”
Should mandatory DNS blocking have been put into place, ISPs would have “to remove certain security protocols, like DNSSEC, which adds an extra layer of security to websites by checking for a special DNS signature to prove that the site is actually what it claims to be,” explained VentureBeat. ISPs such as Comcast use DENSSEC in order to further secure its network.
However, even with the DNS blocking section removed, supporters of SOPA may still seek to have sites accused of copyright infringement and piracy “de-indexed from popular search engines” or prevent the site from using payment services such as PayPal.
Meanwhile, the author of the Protect IP Act (PIPA), Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, has said more study was needed regarding DNS blocking before his bill goes to vote. This bit of backpedaling was due to the outpouring of protest from his constituents.
“I and the bill’s co-sponsors have continued to hear concerns about the Domain Name provision from engineers, human rights groups, and others,” Leahy said in a statement. “I have also heard from a number of Vermonters on this important issue. I remain confident that the ISPs – including the cable industry, which is the largest association of ISPs – would not support the legislation if its enactment created the problems that opponents of this provision suggest.
“Nonetheless, this is in fact a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it.”
Full statements from both Smith and Leahy are below, courtesy of VentureBeat. There is also more information available on the matter from Ars Technica through here.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today said he plans to remove a provision in the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) that requires Internet Service Providers to block access to certain foreign websites.
Chairman Smith: “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.
“Current law protects the rights of American innovators by prohibiting the illegal sale and distribution of their products by domestic websites. But there is no equivalent protection for American companies from foreign online criminals who steal and sell American goods to consumers around the world. Congress must address the widespread problem of online theft of America’s technology and products from foreign thieves.
“The Stop Online Piracy Act cuts off the flow of revenue to these foreign illegal sites and makes it harder for online criminals to market and distribute illegal products to U.S. consumers. The bill maintains provisions that ‘follow the money’ and cut off the main sources of revenue to foreign illegal sites. It also continues to protect consumers from being directed to foreign illegal websites by search engines. And it provides innovators with a way to bring claims against foreign illegal sites that steal and sell their technology, products and intellectual property.
“American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports. Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack. The Stop Online Piracy Act protects the products and jobs that rightly belong to American innovators.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT-D)
“The PROTECT IP Act provides new tools for law enforcement to combat rogue websites that operate outside our borders but target American consumers with stolen American property and counterfeits. One of those tools enables law enforcement to secure a court order asking Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to use the Domain Name System to prevent consumer access to foreign rogue websites. This provision was drafted in response to concerns that law enforcement has remedies it can take against domestic websites, but does not currently have the power to stop foreign rogue websites. I worked closely with the ISPs in drafting this provision to ensure they were comfortable with how it would work, and I appreciate their support.
“The process in drafting the legislation has always been an open one in which we have heard from all third parties, and have worked to address as many outstanding concerns as possible. It is through this process that we have gained the support of the majority of third parties who will be asked to take action under the legislation, as well as a bipartisan group of 40 cosponsors in the Senate.
“It is also through this process that I and the bill’s cosponsors have continued to hear concerns about the Domain Name provision from engineers, human rights groups, and others. I have also heard from a number of Vermonters on this important issue. I remain confident that the ISPs – including the cable industry, which is the largest association of ISPs – would not support the legislation if its enactment created the problems that opponents of this provision suggest. Nonetheless, this is in fact a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it.
“As I prepare a managers’ amendment to be considered during the floor debate, I will therefore propose that the positive and negative effects of this provision be studied before implemented, so that we can focus on the other important provisions in this bill, which are essential to protecting American intellectual property online, and the American jobs that are tied to intellectual property. 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. However, the bill remains a strong and balanced approach to protecting intellectual property through a no-fault, no-liability system that leverages the most relevant players in the Internet ecosystem.”
Yesterday, Firefall studio Red 5, Mojang, and Destructoid announced each would go offline on Monday for a 24 hour period in protest of SOPA. Nvidia, Bungie, GoG.com also spoke out against the bill yesterday as well, joining Epic, 38 Studios, THQ, MLG and many others.
The US senate is expected to vote on SOPA once it returns from recess on January 24.