Backers of SOPA and PIPA Hopeful Revised Bills Can Move

With controversial DNS blocking provisions gone and an equivocal statement from the Obama administration, content industry lobbies press for passage of anti-piracy legislation. However, thousands of destinations websites such as still Wikipedia plan to go dark in protest of the SOPA bill.

By Kenneth Corbin
Tue, January 17, 2012

CIO — WASHINGTON -- Supporters of a pair of controversial anti-piracy bills working their way through Congress anticipate that the measures are heading toward their endgame, following word from the sponsors of the legislation that some of the most objectionable provisions would be dropped.

Slideshow: Samples of SOPA Blackout Sites

The bills in question, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), a slightly different version in the Senate, have together emerged as a lightning rod that has sparked a heated debate, broadly pitting content industries such as Hollywood and music against a litany of Web companies and open Internet advocates.

State of the Net

"Despite all of my best efforts, the past year has been dominated by really a bitter war between Silicon Valley and the content industry," Paul Brigner, senior vice president and chief technology policy officer at the Motion Picture Association of America, said Tuesday here at the annual State of the Net conference.

The next phase of that war is set to open on Wednesday, when thousands of websites, including A-list destinations such as Wikipedia and Reddit, are planning to go dark in protest of the measures.

SOPA sites in the middle of a markup before the House Judiciary Committee, while the full Senate is set to take up PIPA in a floor debate Jan. 24.

Opponents warn that new enforcement mechanisms meant to empower copyright and trademark owners to assert their intellectual property against "rogue" foreign websites dedicated to the trafficking of pirated content will inevitably stifle legitimate sites, while exposing Internet users to greater privacy and security risks, amounting to a form of zero-sum censorship that would ultimately have little impact on curbing piracy.

Wednesday's planned protest comes just days after the bill's sponsors, Texas Republican Lamar Smith in the House and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in the Senate, indicated that they would remove language that could direct Internet service providers to block offending websites at the naming and routing level. Those provisions had provoked vigorous opposition from a large group of Internet innovators, entrepreneurs and security advocates, who warned in a letter to members of Congress that such an approach posed a fundamental threat to the security of the Internet.

"The reality is today that DNS filtering is really off the table for this legislation," Brigner said, offering the hopeful prediction that "this legislation's going through."

Brigner's organization has been among the most prominent lobbies backing tighter copyright protections, and while it was supportive of the DNS filtering provisions, it continues to back SOPA and PIPA without them.

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