After weeks of protest from activists and the tech community– including an entire day dedicated to purposefully “blacking out” major Web sites like Google and Wikipedia in opposition– the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been shelved, for now. Authored by Texas Congressman and head of the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, the bill seeks to protect copyrighted property online by extending powers of law enforcement. Opponents see the measure as a draconian form of Internet censorship on par with repressive regimes in China and Iran.
“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” said Smith in a statement released today. “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.”
As the Texas Independent previously reported, Smith remained steadfast in his support for SOPA in the face of concern from tech experts and a growing chorus of opponents. Changing his tune in the interim, Smith says he will postpone a markup hearing on the bill originally scheduled for February, “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” The full statement by Smith can be found here.
The decision to delay reviewing SOPA quickly followed the postponement of a vote today on its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), as our sister site the Colorado Independent reports. The tide of legislators supporting SOPA/PIPA shifted considerably after Internet giants coordinated a Web site censorship day earlier this week, ProPublica notes. On Jan. 18, the Acts saw 80 supporters and 31 opponents; the next day the legislation had 65 supporters and 101 opponents.
Heavily backed by the entertainment industry, some critics pointed to Smith’s campaign trove, which leads in dollars by the very industry most vocally supporting the legislation, as the Texas Independent reported. Additionally, an article in Vice points out Smith may be an Internet copyright violater himself for using an unattributed photo on his campaign Web site. The post reads:
I contacted DJ, to find out if Lamar had asked permission to use the image and he told me that he had no record of Lamar, or anyone from his organization, requesting permission to use it: “I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons license a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes.
“I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith’s organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com.”
Mike Asmus, manager for Texans for Lamar Smith, responded to the claim.
“A past iteration of www.texansforlamarsmith.com was built by an independent contractor for the 2010 election cycle,” said Asmus in an e-mail to the Texas Independent. “Texans for Lamar Smith relied on that independent contractor to provide a product in keeping with all applicable laws, as the campaign does with all entities providing goods or services.”
“Design, development and management of www.texansforlamarsmith.com was last October placed in the hands of a company that assures all images are being properly used.”
(Image of Rep. Lamar Smith: Wikimedia Commons)