House to Resume SOPA Debate in February

When the U.S. House of Representatives shelved its controversial Stop Online Piracy Act several days ago there wasn’t a question of if it would come back, but instead only a question of when. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the man that introduced the bill, has now said that markup on the proposed legislation will resume in February.

“To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America’s intellectual property, we will continue to bring together industry representatives and Members to find ways to combat online piracy,” he said.

SOPA bill resumes in FebruarySOPA bill resumes in February

The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is a bill that would make it surprisingly easy to get court orders to shut down any website suspected of participating — directly or indirectly — in copyright infringement. Internet service providers would be required to block access to sites that host or link to other sites suspected of copyright infringement, and unauthorized streaming of copyright-protected content would be a felony offense.

Online search engines could be blocked from showing results that include blocked websites, regardless of whether or not they are hosted in the United States, too.

Rep. Lamar had hoped to pass the bill through the House Judiciary Committee in December, but was delayed. Earlier this week, President Barak Obama publicly opposed the bill over concerns that it would lead to online censorship and have a negative impact on business.

“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,” White House spokesman Macon Phillips said. “We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

SOPA supporters responded by temporarily shelving the bill, but said that they would resume debate and language markup when they felt they could get a consensus on wording that’s more acceptable.

SOPA’s equivalent in the U.S. Senate, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) is still moving forward and is raising similar concerns.

Public pressure hasn’t stopped the government from moving forward with the SOPA and PIPA bills, but it seems to have at least slowed legislators down. Organizations such as American Censorship are offering to help voters tell their Congressional Representatives that they don’t support the SOPA bill, as is Wikipedia.