The House Judiciary Committee defeated six amendments proposed for the Stop Online Piracy Act, leaving the controversial bill more or less intact after one full day of debate.
The House Judiciary
Committee debated the Stop Online Piracy Act and a multitude of proposed
amendments on Dec. 15. The committee is set to resume debate on Dec. 16,
and no final vote has been taken on the bill.
If passed, SOPA would result
in creating a "blacklist" of sites selling or distributing
copyrighted content. Companies who believe a site is infringing on their
copyright can get a judge to sign an order that would require advertising
networks and payment processors to stop serving those sites and Internet
service providers to stop letting users access those sites. The bill has been
widely supported by the record and movie industries but opposed by civil
liberties groups and several major Internet
companies, such as Google and Facebook.
The legislation gives legal
immunity to financial institutions and ad networks that choose to boycott
"rogue" sites even without having been ordered to do so. It also does
not affect sites ending in .com, .org or .net.Only sites registered in other countries would be subject to SOPA.
"Laws equip U.S.
authorities and rights holders to take action against criminals who operate
within our borders. But there is no parallel authority that permits effective
action against criminals who operate from abroad," said Rep. Lamar Smith
(R-Texas), the bill's sponsor and committee chairman said in an opening
In the markup, lawmakers
read the entire bill, and then debate each amendment and vote to accept or
reject it. When the process is finished, the bill and all the amendments that
passed are put to a vote to decide whether to move the bill out of the committee
and to the floor for the entire House of Representatives to debate and vote on.
There are more than 60 amendments to SOPA, and the committee got through just six
on the first day of markup.
During the debate, the
committee voted 22-12 to reject an amendment introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa
(R-Calif) that would have removed one of the more controversial provisions in the
bill, the one that would force changes to core Internet infrastructure. The
bill would require ISPs to interfere with how the Domain Name System works when
directing users to the Websites they want in order to prevent them from
accessing blacklisted sites. ISPs could employ the same tactics used by China
in its nation-wide firewall to censor portions of the Internet for its
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
noted that Internet security experts have raised concerns about the bill's
effect on DNSSEC, a set of applications that secure DNS from malicious attacks.
"Maybe we ought to ask some nerds about what this really does,"
Chaffetz said, adding, "If you don't know what DNSSEC is, you don't know
what you're doing."
Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) said
while he wasn't a "nerd," he felt security experts were exaggerating
the security implications for the Internet if the bill mandated ISPs to tamper
with DNS. "I'm not a person to argue about the technology of this,"
Watt said. He voted against the amendment.
The committee held hearings
on the bill in November, but not
one technical expert was called to testify. Many lawmakers urged Rep. Lamar
Smith (R-Texas), the bill's sponsor and committee chairman, to hold another
hearing with actual technical experts. Smith declined, saying he has
"every intention" of going forward "today, tomorrow and however
long it takes."
Rep. Dan Lungren, (R-Calif.)
felt the committee was moving too quickly and should slow down and listen to
technical experts. "Why is there this rush to judgment?" Lungren
asked. "Why can't we slow down and take a look?" he asked.
An amendment that would have
excluded universities and research institutions from having to take part in
blacklisting sites was defeated. It also rejected an amendment proposed by Rep.
Jared Polis (D-Colorado) that the pornography industry would not be protected.
The committee rejected Polis' amendment 18-9.