Lamar Smith to remove controversial DNS blocking stipulation from SOPA

Author of the highly debated Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), has agreed to remove a controversial section in the bill that blocks foreign websites accused of infringing copyrights or committing acts of Piracy, the congressman said in a statement released today.

The proposed SOPA bill gives both the U.S. government and copyright holders the authority to seek court orders to block websites associated with infringing, pirating or counterfeiting intellectual property. One method of blocking a website under SOPA — which Smith intends to remove — includes getting Internet service providers (like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon FiOS) to block the site’s DNS record, which would prevent people from visiting those sites.

“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,” Smith said in the statement. “We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.”

By instituting mandatory DNS blocking, ISPs would have to remove certain security protocols, like DNSSEC, which adds an extra layer of security to websites by checking for a special DNS signature to prove that the site is actually what it claims to be. Many ISPs, including Comcast, use this method to help keep its internet network more secure.

It’s unclear at this time whether SOPA will still seek to block access to sites accused of piracy by getting them de-indexed from popular search engines or preventing them from doing business with online transaction services like PayPal.

On a related note, the author of a Senate bill similar to SOPA, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) is also showing signs of backing down. Sen. Patrick Leahy said yesterday that more study was needed regarding DNS blocking before PIPA goes to a vote.

We’re pasting the full statement from Smith’s office below.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today said he plans to remove a provision in the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) that requires Internet Service Providers to block access to certain foreign websites.

Chairman Smith: “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. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.

“Current law protects the rights of American innovators by prohibiting the illegal sale and distribution of their products by domestic websites.  But there is no equivalent protection for American companies from foreign online criminals who steal and sell American goods to consumers around the world. Congress must address the widespread problem of online theft of America’s technology and products from foreign thieves.

“The Stop Online Piracy Act cuts off the flow of revenue to these foreign illegal sites and makes it harder for online criminals to market and distribute illegal products to U.S. consumers. The bill maintains provisions that ‘follow the money’ and cut off the main sources of revenue to foreign illegal sites. It also continues to protect consumers from being directed to foreign illegal websites by search engines. And it provides innovators with a way to bring claims against foreign illegal sites that steal and sell their technology, products and intellectual property.

“American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports.  Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack.  The Stop Online Piracy Act protects the products and jobs that rightly belong to American innovators.”

The bill is supported by more than 120 businesses and associations from around the country including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Sheriffs’ Association, International Union of Police Associations, the National Association of Manufacturers, the AFL-CIO, the National Songwriters Association and the National Center for Victims of Crime. More information about the Stop Online Piracy Act can be found at: http://judiciary.house.gov/issues/issues_RogueWebsites.html

For more information about the proposed legislation, check out VentureBeat’s ongoing SOPA coverage.

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