House debate over SOPA anti-piracy bill to resume in Feb.

The U.S. House of Representatives has decided to push back a vote on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) for at least a month.

The delay is due in large part to opposition from many companies and organizations in the tech industry, including Google, Wikipedia and others. The House Judiciary Committee announced the delay in a new statement today.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who authored SOPA, said he expects markup on the bill (a.k.a. debate, amendments and rewrites to the bill) to continue in February. The delay is also due to the many Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks that will keep many members of congress busy.

“To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America’s intellectual property, we will continue to bring together industry representatives and Members to find ways to combat online piracy,” Smith said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to send a bipartisan bill to the White House that saves American jobs and protects intellectual property.”

To summarize, SOPA would give both the U.S. government and copyright holders the authority to seek court orders against foreign-operated websites associated with infringing, pirating or counterfeiting intellectual property. If it becomes law, it could drastically change the way the Internet operates. For example, if a website is accused of containing copyright-infringing content, the site could be blocked by ISPs, de-indexed from search engines and even prevented from doing business online with services like PayPal.

SOPA has broad support in the entertainment industry, which claims it is suffering huge losses thanks to overseas piracy. It has pit Hollywood against Silicon Valley, however: Many leaders in the tech industry as well as online communities have banded together in protest of SOPA and the Senate version, known as the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

Many sites, such as Wikipedia and Reddit, have pledged to go offline for a day on Wednesday, the originally-scheduled date for the House hearing, as a way of showing the potential ill effects of the bill.

Earlier today, a group of tech leaders participated in a public discussion about the potential evils of bad copyright bills like SOPA/PIPA, as VentureBeat previously reported.

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