Representative Lamar Smith, the principal sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a dangerous and unconstitutional Internet blacklist bill now working its way through the House of Representatives, has released a “manager’s amendment” that reworks some of the bill’s worst provisions. While the new version jettisons some of the most harmful language, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
The best thing about the new version is it no longer allows a private actor to effectively cut off payment processing for websites with a simple notice. The bill also endeavors to narrow the range of targets to non-U.S. sites. And, the authors have had the good sense to eliminate language that would have put sites under threat if even a single page was arguably linked to infringement.
These are positive steps, but frankly, the original provisions were so overbroad and poorly written that we suspect the bill's backers had always planned to eliminate them, as a supposed “compromise.”
So let’s be clear: this new version is no compromise. It still gives the Attorney General and rightholders the right to obtain blacklist orders. There is new ambiguity as to how the blacklist will be enforced (service providers who receive the order have some flexibility as to how they will comply) – but the effect will be the same: a balkanized Internet and a fundamental contradiction in U.S. Internet policy. It still contains vague and ambiguous language that will take decades of expensive litigation to parse – with free speech under threat all the while. It still targets tools that might be used to “circumvent” the blacklist, even if those tools are essential to human rights activists and political dissidents around the world. And so on.
Techdirt has some excellent comments as well.
We’ve said it before: this bill cannot be fixed, it must be killed. SOPA is set for a hearing on Thursday, the next step in the proponents’ desperate effort to slip it through Congress without serious scrutiny. If you oppose this bill – and you should – please call your Representative now – and then call five friends to ask them to do the same. Check out our activist toolkit for more steps you can take to defend a free and open Internet.