Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the bill that detractors say would amount to Internet censorship, appear to have scored an important victory. According to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said there will be no vote on SOPA “unless there is consensus on the bill,” as reported in the Guardian. Does this mean the end of the controversial legislation? Probably not. When the San Francisco Chronicle contacted Cantor’s office, they said that he had yet to issue a statement. While SOPA won’t be voted on this week, it may be re-introduced in a different form. A similar bill in the Senate, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) is still under consideration. This news arrives on the heels of a statement issued by the White House on Saturday, which said the administration would not support any anti-piracy legislation at the expense of Internet freedom. Though the administration indicated opposition to SOPA as it is currently drafted, it expressed support for an enhanced anti-piracy regime. In a blog post responding to two petitions circulating against the bill, White House staff asserted that “any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.”
The administration officials also affirmed, however, that “existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders” and called on “all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response.” SOPA is intended to punish websites that publish copyrighted content, like music or movies, without the permission of the U.S. rights holders. Opponents, however, criticize the measure for being too far-reaching and giving the Department of Justice too much power. Since the bill was introduced last year it has resulted in an Internet firestorm of opposition. An internet blackout in protest of SOPA and other anti-piracy bills in Congress, planned before the White House announced opposition to the bill, will proceed on January 18. Fight for the Future has organized the blackout in collaboration with sites such as Mozilla, Reddit, Free Press, Good and TwitPic are participating. Other Internet giants, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and eBay, placed a full-page ad in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post urging Congress to reject the measures. Fight for the Future recently confirmed on Twitter that Wikipedia will join the strike.
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Alyssa Meza is a Winter 2012 In These Times editorial intern
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