House Judiciary Committee Opts to Delay SOPA Vote

We're not out of the woods yet, but thanks to an inability to come to an agreement over a provision related to Internet infrastructure, a vote on the odious Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, has been delayed indefinitely. Due to ongoing disagreement over certain aspects of SOPA, the House Judiciary Committee opted not to bring it to a full House vote this afternoon as previously scheduled, instead adjourning without setting a new date to resume the discussion.

The delay came as a surprise, as it was considered all but certain to be presented for a full house vote after a lengthy debate on Thursday that lasted 11 hours. The motion twas brought by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who asked for a delay so that experts can be brought in to discuss the bill further. The member of the political party devoted to Small Government and Liberty isn't concerned about any abrogation of constitutional rights for ordinary citizens. At issue was a provision that would empower the US Attorney General to order sweeping changes to Internet infrastructure. The legislation requires Internet service providers to alter DNS records in order to prevent users from being able to locate or even visit a suspect site; essentially, to falsify Internet data. If ISPs resist such a requirement, they would be forced instead  to use other methods to block US citizen access to such sites. The worry here is that forcing changes to Intent-domain naming system will in fact increase security risks.

SOPA would also empower Copyright holders to obtain a court order against websites accused of infringing on copyright claims without first notifying the suspected site of their intent. This would allow corporate entities to enact dire penalties, including blocking sites from IPs or even delisting an accused site from browsers, without even cursory due process restrictions. It is in essence the granting of near-legal authority to nongovernmental entities, and would essentially kill the Internet in the United States as it currently operates. That SOPA, and its equally terrible Senate counterpart, the ridiculously named "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011", (alternately the PROTECT IP Act or simply PIPA,) would place American citizens under a restrictive online environment essentialy identical to the one China imposes on its own citizens, and further that the US Government has been engaged in a very public argument with China over that framework, are ironies lost on the current congress.

Despite an outcry from citizens and prominent tech industry experts - including a scathing open letter released today by 83 Internet Engineers and inventors - the bill inexplicably retains solid support in the House of Representatives. However, As the U.S. Congress is set to begin its holiday recess, this delay guarantees that SOPA (and PIPA) will not pass in 2011. Though the discussion is certain to pick up shortly after Congress resumes in 2012, the delay affords opponents of the bill additional time to lobby Congressional members.