The sponsor of the anti-piracy bill SOPA has agreed to drop DNS blocking of websites from the proposed legislation after a joint statement from leading White House officials.
Rep. Lamar Smith said in a statement that:
After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision.
SOPA is one of two similar bills being discussed by Congress, and contains a range of measures against foreign digital piracy sites, including financial countermeasures and, most controversially, removing them from the domain name system that translates readable web addresses into numeric network addresses.
It's strongly backed by unions, and entertainment and software businesses who rely on intellectual property, who have argued that the 1998 DMCA doesn't oblige ISPs, service providers such as Google, or financial payment processors to behave with any social responsibility.
Silicon Valley web companies have come out swinging against it. Now the White House is getting nervous, and Smith's decision followed a strongly worded blog-post by three leading administration appointees.
Copyright enforcer Victoria Espinel, Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra and Obama's cyber-security co-ordinator Howard Schmidt expressed the view that:
We must avoid creating new cyber-security risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet.
In case anybody missed the point, that part was in bold type on their missive.
So SOPA may not be dead, but looks becalmed. Yet attracting much less comment were several remarks that new tools are needed to protect US businesses from theft - and a rather sarcastic reference to the free speech opponents of IP protection.
"We should never let criminals hide behind a hollow embrace of legitimate American values," they write, setting out what anti-IP should be. It should be "narrowly targeted" at sites beyond US law, be Constitutionally tickety-boo, and should not encourage new, speculative litigation by the copyright industries.
It also says doing nothing is not an option.
"Don’t limit your opinion to what’s the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what’s right," the three bigwigs agree, essentially calling the anti-SOPA campaigners bluff. "Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders."
But for the foreseeable future, a law that stops Americans from peeking at Pirate Bay - a proposal that many sympathetic to IP enforcement find hard to support - looks dead. ®