In an announcement on Friday, Congressman Lamar Smith, the author of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) officially killed the bill after a day of massive protests that saw Wikipedia and Reddit go dark. Google announced that over 4 million people signed their petition against the bill and Wikipedia inspired millions more to search for their representatives and senators in Congress in order to contact them in protest of the bill.
“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”
SOPA would have given the government the power to shut down any website found with copyrighted material, even if the site itself didn’t share the content. The government would also have the authority to shut down all sites that are affiliated with the original site. Essentially, the government could shut down dozens of sites over the actions of one person. So if a person shared illegal content on Facebook, the government could shut down Facebook and every site affiliated with it. It’s censorship on a major scale that would destroy the internet and technological innovation, not to mention freedom of speech.
In a separate statement released to the press, Smith vowed to “revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products” He also promised to continue working with copyright holders and suggested that he would bring internet industry leaders to the table to make a better, more agreeable bill.
It’s unclear when Smith will bring a new bill to the House floor, but with SOPA now dead, the internet remains free and innovative. That being said, the American people need to be cautious about any new bill that arises to take the place of SOPA. Congress has killed bills before only to resurrect them under a different name. But as long as Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Facebook, and other sites watch for legislation that threatens to censor the internet, you can bet we’ll all know about it.
UPDATE: It appears that the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the Senate counterpart to SOPA, has been killed as well. Senator Harry Reid has canceled a vote that had been scheduled for next week. Looks like a complete victory for those protesting the bills.