A day after the primary house sponsor of the controversial online piracy bill said he was dropping DNS blocking from the legislation the White House said it would not support any legislation that tampered with the naming system.
of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act circulating in the House of
Representatives got a boost after the White House said it would not support any
legislation that would result in online censorship or posed cyber-security
risks to the Internet's infrastructure.
The Obama administration was
concerned about proposed legislation that sought to "tamper" with the
Internet by manipulating the Domain Name System, according to a letter released
Jan. 14. DNS-filtering could pose a "real risk" to cyber-security and
was not the way to fight online piracy, wrote White House cyber-security
coordinator Howard Schmidt; Victoria Espinel, intellectual property enforcement
coordinator; and Aneesh Chopra, federal CTO.
The White House has been
silent in recent months as the debate over online piracy and censorship raged
over SOPA and its counterpart in the Senate, Protect IP Act (PIPA). The recent
statement was in response to two petitions asking the administration to weigh
in on the SOPA debate. They were generated by the government's online petition
tool "We the People."
"Our analysis of the
DNS-filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a
real risk to cyber-security and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible
online," Schmidt wrote.
The White House letter was
"welcome news," according to Markham Erickson, executive director of
industry group netCoalition. "We appreciate the Administration's
recognition that our ability to innovate, invest and grow the economy is
dependent upon keeping the Internet open and free," Erickson said.
News Corp's Rupert Murdoch was incensed
with the White House
statement. "So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who
threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery," Murdoch posted on
Twitter. "Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around
them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying," he added.
The White House statement
was released a day after Rep. Lamar Smith
(R-Texas), the chairman of
the House Judiciary Committee and the sponsor of the bill, announced he will
remove the DNS-filtering provision from the draft. SOPA, if passed, would have
allowed copyright-owners to obtain court orders to force ISPs to block the
offending Website's DNS record to prevent users from accessing the site
"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 the statement.
The bill's opponents had
pointed out that mandatory DNS-blocking would require ISPs to remove Domain
Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) and other layers of security that
verify that Websites are legitimate. The U.S. government has been a strong
supporter for rolling out the DNSSEC to secure the naming system. "We must
avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and
puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at
risk," according to the White House letter.
The White House was also
opposed to "overly broad private rights of action that could encourage
unjustified litigation" or that could "discourage startup businesses and
innovative firms from growing," according to the statement. Any proposed
legislation must "be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused
on criminal activity."
"Across the globe, the
openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business,
government, and society and it must be protected," the White House said.
With the DNS provision
removed, SOPA now resembles OPEN Act, a more moderate approach to online piracy
introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Issa
postponed a hearing set for Jan. 18 in which security experts were expected to
testify about the effects of DNS-filtering, in light of Smith backing down and
the decision by Majority Leader Eric Cantor not to allow the bill to appear
before the full House without full consensus of the committee.
Sen. Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont), who sponsored
PIPA in the Senate, said Jan. 12 that more study was needed before implementing
DNS-blocking. PIPA, unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in
May, was expected to come up for a floor vote sometime in the next two weeks.
However, some Republicans are now asking for the vote to be delayed in light of