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SOPA anti-piracy bill stalls after DNS blow

US lawmakers have removed a provision of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act that would have compelled ISPs to block access to foreign websites that are used for copyright infringement.On the same day that the White House warned against attempts to tamper with the Domain Name System (DNS), congressman Lamar Smith, the main sponsor of the bill, said on Friday that the site-blocking elements of SOPA were being excised pending further examination.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

US lawmakers have removed a provision of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act that would have compelled ISPs to block access to foreign websites that are used for copyright infringement.

On the same day that the White House warned against attempts to tamper with the Domain Name System (DNS), congressman Lamar Smith, the main sponsor of the bill, said on Friday that the site-blocking elements of SOPA were being excised pending further examination.

"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 [House Judiciary] Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision," Smith said in a statement. "We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to US consumers."

Shortly after this happened, congressman Darrell Issa said that SOPA would not see a vote until there was more "consensus" on its contents.

"Although SOPA, despite the removal of this provision, is still a fundamentally flawed bill, I have decided that postponing the scheduled hearing on DNS blocking with technical experts is the best course of action at this time," Issa said.

"I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House. Majority leader [Eric] Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote," Issa added.

The Obama administration's statement on Friday was in response to petitions about SOPA, the Senate's PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Online Protection and Digital Enforcement Act (OPEN). The White House said it backed the creation of new copyright-protection laws, but would not support legislation that "reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet".

"Across the globe, the openness of the internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected," the White House said. "To minimise this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current US law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing US laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity."

The White House said that some of the proposed DNS filtering would "pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online". The US administration is a major backer of the DNSSEC internet security initiative, the adoption of which would be made trickier by the proposed tampering.

PIPA's DNS-filtering provision also looks in doubt. On Thursday, chief sponsor Patrick Leahy responded to "outstanding concerns" by proposing "that the positive and negative effects of this provision be studied before implemented, so that we can focus on the other important provisions in this bill".

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