SOPA Halted in the House

Fight over bills now turns to Senate

The controversial Stop Online Piracy Act has been stopped dead in its tracks in the House. Until there is broader consensus among the lawmakers about legislation that would crack down on foreign Web sites that infringe on U.S. copyright material and counterfeit goods, Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R.-Va.) has agreed SOPA would not come before the House for a vote.

The sharp turn in the debate followed news late Friday that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would remove the domain name system blocking provision from the bill.

It's a major victory for opponents of SOPA and its Senate counterpart, PIPA, who have charged that SOPA and PIPA bill provisions would damage the architecture of the Internet. They've mounted an aggressive marketing and lobbying campaign to stop both bills, rallying big technology companies to take on big content companies in the fight.

"The voice of the Internet community has been heard. Much more education for members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has offered an alternative bill known as OPEN.

As a result of the deal struck with House leadership, Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has postponed Wednesday's hearing that would examine the impact of domain name service and search engine blocking on the Internet.

In his statement, Issa said that even though SOPA was halted, the fight wasn't over. "SOPA . . . is still a fundamentally flawed bill," Issa said. "Right now, the focus of protecting the Internet needs to be on the Senate where Majority Leader Reid has announced his intention to try to move similar legislation [PIPA] in less than two weeks."

Opponents of SOPA and PIPA have made some progress in the Senate. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would work on a manager's amendment to PIPA that would address DNS blocking before the bill comes up for consideration on Jan. 24. 

Following Leahy's announcement, six GOP leaders on the Senate Judiciary Committee reached out to Majority Leader Harry Reid requesting that he delay PIPA's scheduled floor vote.

"We are all in agreement that the online distribution and sale of pirated content and counterfeit goods impose a huge cost on the American economy in terms of lost jobs, lost sales, lost innovation and lost income. We also believe, however, that we need to arrive at the right solution in the right way on this important issue," wrote GOP senators Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Orin Hatch, Utah; Jeff Sessions, Ala.; John Cornyn, Texas; Mike Lee, Utah; and Tom Coburn, M.D., Okla.

If PIPA does come up for a vote, Wyden is prepared to filibuster it.