Over the weekend, President Obama publicly declared his administration’s opposition to the controversial internet censorship bill being introduced in Congress known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA. (The opposition includes both versions of the bill, the House of Representatives’ SOPA and the Senate’s Protect IP Act aka PIPA, which is still, technically, alive.) And now, after a continuous loss of support and facing severe and vocal opposition from the public, the House has shelved the bill, and it is what insiders like to call “Dead On Arrival.” But what about PIPA? Well, it’s what I like to call a “Dead Bill Walking.”
If we’re being completely accurate, the bill has not been done away with completely. The correct term is “shelved indefinitely.” And that means that the bill’s sponsors who refuse to see this thing die will revisit it at another time, make some changes to it (that we will still not accept, most likely), and bring it up at a later date. Said House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA):
“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 [Eric] 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.”
And we all know how much House Republicans like to “build consensus” with their Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives.
Anyway, politics aside, there were vocal opponents of both bills from every part of the political spectrum — Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, moderates, everyone. No one wanted this bill to happen, except for its sponsors. And a few corporations who may or may not have realized how far, exactly, this thing was meant to reach. (Like putting people in prison for posting copyrighted material, for example, or wiping out entire web sites that featured what someone might consider copyrighted material.)
But a major nail in the coffin came this weekend, when President Obama’s technology advisors expressed their severe concerns about the reach of the bill and the chilling effect it would have on free expression on the internet. Obama then promised to veto the bill in any form if it made it to his desk. One of SOPA’s main sponsors, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), removed the provision that would have required ISPs to block any offending web sites, but the damage was done after the Administration’s statement.
And while PIPA lives in the Senate — for the moment — even if it was to pass (which is already unlikely), it would not survive the President’s veto.
So, we can rest easy for the moment. We have a President who does not want to see this happen, who believes in the First Amendment and freedom of expression, and not stifling creativity on the internet. And that’s a good thing.
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