The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was expected to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, but at the last minute a vote on the bill was delayed until Wednesday, December 21. Proponents of the bill say it will stop the online theft of intellectual property like movies and books, while opponents say it will give the U.S. government control over the content Internet users can access.
The bill 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.
Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the bill and was generally expected to find a way to push it through the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, although he ultimately wasn’t able to pull the vote together. Initially, it appeared that the vote would be postponed until after the Congressional holiday break, but was instead rescheduled for next Wednesday, according to Techdirt.
Hollywood and the recording industry are throwing their support behind the bill saying it will stop online piracy. Internet engineers such as Vint Cert, John Gilmore and L. Jean Camp, however, strongly oppose the bill claiming it will let the government create a national firewall where it can control what content users can access.
Former Department of Homeland Security policy director Stewart Baker added that the proposed legislation “would still do greater damage to Internet security,” according to Wired.
Companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, eBay, and the Brookings Institute all openly oppose the bill, as do the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Human Rights Watch.
Raising concerns that the bill is overly broad, the EFF’s Trevor Timm said, “SOPA would not just go after copyright infringers; it leaves no one on the Internet untouched.”
Assuming the bill makes it out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, it will face additional debate before becoming law.