Today in Washington, I’m following a hearing in the United States House of Representatives where the Manager’s Amendment of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is being marked up. For those unfamiliar, “markup” refers to the process by which a U.S. congressional committee or state legislative session debates, amends, and rewrites proposed legislation.
If the bill is going to be changed before it heads to the House floor, this is the time. There are many further amendments to SOPA proposed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, as Michael Masnick has listed at Techdirt.
There are two options to watch the hearing online: the U.S. House stream and Rep. Issa’s “Keep the Web Open” site. Here’s my backgrounder on SOPA, if you haven’t been following this bill, “Congress considers anti-piracy bills that could cripple Internet industries.”
During the hearing, Representative Lofgren asked that the bill be read into the Congressional record and raised issues with how the legislation has been moved forward.
There’s a new op-ed today by DNS engineers on SOPA versus network architecture. The New York Times also ran an article on the lay of the land with a couple of questionable lines, calling one side of the debate the “Internet world.
The author of the New York Times article, Edward Wyatt, didn’t mention that newspaper journalists have now come out against SOPA as well. The Washington Post linked to Dan Gillmor’s Google+ page, where Dan observes that “finally, journalists see the threat from SOPA and ProtectIP: the American Society of News Editors…has asked Congress to stop this runaway train.” I talked with the Knight Digital Media Center about how SOPA could chill innovation at news startups.
Sergey Brin also weighed in on SOPA last night on his Google+ account.
“In just two decades, the world wide web has transformed and democratized access to information all around the world. I am proud of the role Google has played alongside many others such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Twitter. Whether you are a student in an internet cafe in the developing world or a head of state of a wealthy nation, the knowledge of the world is at your fingertips.
Of course, offering these services has come with its challenges. Multiple countries have sought to suppress the flow of information to serve their own political goals. At various times notable Google websites have been blocked in China, Iran, Libya (prior to their revolution), Tunisia (also prior to revolution), and others. For our own websites and for the internet as a whole we have worked tirelessly to combat internet censorship around the world alongside governments and NGO promoting free speech.
Thus, imagine my astonishment when the newest threat to free speech has come from none other but the United States. Two bills currently making their way through congress — SOPA and PIPA — give the US government and copyright holders extraordinary powers including the ability to hijack DNS and censor search results (and this is even without so much as a proper court trial). While I support their goal of reducing copyright infringement (which I don’t believe these acts would accomplish), I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world. This is why I signed on to the following open letter with many other founders – http://dq99alanzv66m.cloudfront.net/sopa/img/12-14-letter.pdf See also: http://americancensorship.org/ and http://engineadvocacy.org/
More to come as the markup goes forward. With more than 50 amendments proposed, this could continue on into Friday.