The Obama Administration Opposes SOPA, But Not Strongly Enough
As Congress prepares to return for the first time since adjourning at the end of 2011, so too does the threat posed by the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it’s odious Senate Counterpoint, the PROTECT IP ACT (PIPA). We dodged a bullet late last year when the House Judiciary Committee abruptly cancelled a scheduled full house floor vote on the bill, in order to consider further alleged problems with the provision that would enable the Justice Department to impose changes to existing Internet infrastructure. That discussion was then postponed until the 2012 session, giving SOPA opponents much-needed additional time to raise public awareness of the bills’ onerous limitations on Internet freedom and blatant undermining of a fair and free marketplace.
Among the more high-profile public campaigns is the posting of two petitions directly to the White House website calling on the Obama Administration to veto SOPA. They have apparently succeeded in grabbing the administration’s attention: today, the White House finally issued a response to these petitions. The good news? It appears the Obama Administration opposes the bill.
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response,” the statement reads, “we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” Wonderful, and better still, the statement also firmly defends the concept of an open Internet and decries SOPA provisions that would drastically change Internet infrastructural protocols:
Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small… Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.
We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS)… We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.
This is certainly a much-longed-for outcome after months of dithering from the Obama administration. It’s unwise to get our hopes up just yet, however. The current administration’s penchant for failing to follow nice-sounding rhetoric with tangible action is, by this point, legendary. Furthermore, the full statement is a little less committal than these excerpts would suggest. Re-reading “any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing,” what disturbs the reader is that it lacks any specific mention of the most nefarious part of the SOPA blacklist provision.