Despite recent changes to anti-online piracy bills under consideration in Congress, opponents still say the bills would make it impossible for Websites to block offending domains and won't actually stop piracy.
Stop Online Piracy Act is an anti-piracy bill currently under debate before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill was written to target Websites run by overseas operators that sell or distribute pirated and counterfeited products, which includes everything from Hollywood movies to leather handbags.
Criticism of the bills' provisions continued even as a number of prominent Websites, including the Wikipedia free online encyclopedia, shut down for 24 hours on Jan. 18 to protest the proposed legislation.
If the committee approves the bill, it will move to the full House of Representatives for debate and a vote. The Senate's Senate Judiciary Committee has already unanimously approved a similar version of the bill called the Protect IP Act (PIPA). This bill is expected to reach the Senate floor for full debate and vote sometime next week, possibly as soon as Jan. 24.
Supporters, which include the music recording and movie industries, several software companies and pharmaceutical firms, claim the bill would give copyright holders a way to shut down counterfeiting sites which cost them billions of dollars in losses each year. Major technology firms, civil liberties groups and security experts are bitterly opposed to the bill, claiming it is a form of censorship that bypasses due process and would interfere with fundamental Internet operations.
Late last week, SOPA's sponsor and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) backed down and agreed to temporarily remove the provisions mandating Domain Name System blocking of Websites found in violation of the law. The bill, if passed, would have allowed copyright holders to obtain a court order to force Internet service providers to modify the offending Website's Domain Name System record to prevent customers from being able to reach the sites.
Smith claimed he was removing DNS filtering in order to proceed with the bill while the committee examined the technical implications of modifying DNS. The committee had already defeated an amendment to remove the DNS blocking provision during the markup process in December. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who sponsored PIPA in the Senate, said Jan. 12 that more study was needed before implementing DNS-blocking but did not say it would be removed from PIPA.
Even with DNS filtering removed, opponents say the bills place an undue burden on the Website operators to monitor content. Currrently, copyright holders can fill out a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown request demanding that sites to remove specific copyrighted content.