The Stop Online Piracy Act is a controversial bill that would allow the Justice Department to pull foreign sites "dedicated" to copyright infringement out of the DNS system and search engine results — effectively altering the way the internet works. It's a hugely controversial bill that takes a scorched-earth approach to solving the thorny problem of copyright infringement on the web, and it's attracting a lot of attention from around the web. We're tracking the bill's progress and reaction from the industry right here.
Jan 26, 2012
The Hollywood Reporter offers up fresh details about the level of panic and frustration that built up as public sentiment turned against the MPAA and other entities involved in creating the far-reaching SOPA / PIPA efforts. THR details a phone call between MPAA president Chris Dodd and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg in which the two discussed their concerns the White House would oppose SOPA. Dodd came away with the impression that nothing major was in the works, only to have the White House make its issues with the legislation public just days later.Read Article >
Supporters of the anti-piracy measures are described as having felt betrayed by Obama, particularly when he represents a party traditionally warm to Hollywood's interests. They also pin questionable motives on Google, claiming the search giant was opposed to the legislation since it would cut off profit from advertising on pirate sites. At the same time, the prevailing theme continues to suggest that those who drafted the legislation were simply out of touch with the modern web, including particulars that were bound to be met with criticism. An unspecified Congressional aide blasted the MPAA for a lack of "understand the politics of the Internet, the power of the Internet, the perception people had of the things they were proposing."
It looks like Wednesday's SOPA Blackout Day should be considered a success: Reuters is reporting that the Stop Online Piracy Act has been withdrawn by its chief sponsor, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. This comes only hours after Senator Harry Reid announced that next Tuesday's scheduled vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) was going to be postponed. While the SOPA bill is off the table for now, there's no indication that it's being completely abandoned — Smith told Reuters that he's pulling the measure "until there is wider agreement on a solution," and also said that he has heard the critics loud and clear and is taking their concerns seriously.Read Article >
Since the proponents of SOPA and PIPA have indicated that they're still very interested in pushing through an anti-piracy bill in some form, the latest moves indicate more of a holding pattern than a final resolution. We will closely monitor the situation as Congress mulls new legislation that's more likely to have a chance at passing a vote.
Jan 20, 2012Read Article >
Senator Harry Reid has announced that next Tuesday's vote on the Protect-IP Act has been canceled, but the bill is still far from dead. While Reid's statement vaguely cites "recent events" (i.e. massive voter disapproval) he insists that "counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year" — the same heavy caveat of economic doom that other SOPA / PIPA supporters in Congress have provided since the controversy began. Reid says he's optimistic that a compromise will be reached in the coming weeks, as members of Congress work with stakeholders to craft legislation that's more likely to be successful when a vote finally occurs.
Jan 20, 2012
Former Senator and current MPAA chairman Chris Dodd has acknowledged that SOPA and its Senate counterpart PIPA have an image problem. Dodd says that the bills were largely considered a "slam dunk" before the protests that culminated in a massive site blackout on Wednesday. After the protests had built momentum, however, "this was a whole new different game all of a sudden," he said. While SOPA author Lamar Smith said last week that he was confident the bill would pass, Dodd now seems more interested in talking about the mistakes made than the chances of SOPA and PIPA succeeding.Read Article >
Dodd blames the bills' reduced support on a slow timeline that allowed opposition to mobilize, but also on a strategy that ended up making the anti-piracy effort seem specifically about helping Hollywood. His own efforts were also limited by a law that prevents him from lobbying Congress directly within two years of leaving office.
Wednesday's SOPA Blackout Day appears to have had its intended effect — a flood of attention was focused on the issue all week, and the Senate's website had trouble handling the influx of traffic from concerned citizens. A number of politicians have started withdrawing support for SOPA and PIPA, and the bills are now even being criticized by politicians from abroad. Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission, tweeted today that she was "glad [the] tide is turning on #SOPA; don't need bad legislation when should be safeguarding benefits of open net."Read Article >
It's a strong and unambiguous position for a foreign politician to take regarding US policy, but Kroes helps manage the "Digital Agenda" for the EC and has worked to combat piracy without restricting a free internet. In a second tweet, Kroes said that "Speeding is illegal too: but you don't put speedbumps on the motorway." While it's hard to say how much influence foreign objections can have on these bills, it's worth noting that SOPA outrage is catching the attention of political leaders beyond our borders.
It looks like the SOPA blackout day has encouraged many citizens to get out and email their senators to voice their disapproval. If you head over to the US Senate's home page and reach this list of senators, many (if not all) of the "contact" links are currently returning a "technical difficulties" message. There's no evidence of foul play here (Anonymous is even currently under a blackout), and while it could be unrelated to SOPA, there's definitely a lot of major web properties driving visitors to the Senate's site today. Hopefully these issues get sorted out quickly so citizens can continue to make their voices heard.Read Article >
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The MPAA has taken notice of the many websites blacking out their content today in protest of SOPA, and thinks these companies would be better off supporting efforts to combat piracy rather than protesting. Chris Dodd, former senator and current MPAA CEO, starts his statement under the guise of concern, saying sites participating in blackout day (such as Reddit and Wikipedia) are "irresponsible" and "resorting to stunts that punish their users." He goes on to say that these blackouts are a "dangerous and troubling development" and an "abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace."Read Article >
Closing with a bit of "you're with us or against us" rhetoric, Dodd says that this blackout is designed to "punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to project American jobs from foreign criminals." Apparently, Dodd wants support in combating piracy from these sites, not protests — if that's the case, he's fishing for that support in an awfully strange way.
Jan 18, 2012
It's a day of protest across the internet today, as Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, and others have all gone black to voice opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. We think the greater responsibility of The Verge as a news outlet is to serve our readers, so we're still up and running, but I wanted to take this opportunity to publish Vox Media's official SOPA position statement. As many of you know, Vox Media and The Verge are officially opposed to SOPA, and I worked closely with our general counsel Lauren Fisher to articulate the reasons why — although our company invests heavily in producing premium content, we feel SOPA is overbroad, dangerous to the technical operation of the internet, and will ultimately cost us more in compliance costs than it might save by "protecting" our work. It's a bad law, and we think it needs to be stopped.Read Article >
At the same time, we also think it's time to rethink copyright policy itself to find a balance between the protections media companies like Vox Media and The Verge need to stay in business and the simple realities of how media works on the internet. Copyright law in the United States hasn't been seriously rethought since 1998 — before Google was really even a company, let alone before social networks like Twitter and Facebook and services like YouTube built empires out of regular people sharing content with each other. It's no wonder the law feels out of touch with reality, and SOPA is so rooted in that obsolete model that it's almost offensive to anyone who's been paying attention.
Jan 18, 2012
Two new laws proposed by US legislators, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, have been attracting a very negative reaction from the web community over the past couple of months, which is today culminating in a day of protests. Aiming to curtail copyright infringement on the web by giving the US government unprecedented new powers, both SOPA and PIPA have been rejected as overreaching and unhelpful laws that cannot coexist with a free and open internet.Read Article >
The most outspoken protester of the bills today will be Wikipedia, whose English site will be going dark for the full 24 hours on January 18th, starting at midnight ET. It's also joined by Reddit, which will replace its usual "glorious, user-curated chaos" with a message noting its opposition to SOPA and PIPA, accompanied by links to more information about the bills and suggested ways to express your own dissatisfaction with them. Reddit will not be offering its regular service between the hours of 8AM ET and 8PM ET, which is also when Mozilla will be redirecting the Mozilla.org and Mozilla.com English webpages to a similar "action page" inviting users of its software to voice their concern. The Firefox landing page will also be altered to raise awareness. Finally, Google's search homepage is partaking in the protest by blacking out the Google logo, voicing the company's opposition to SOPA, and including a link for more information.
Jan 16, 2012
While Reddit's merry band of Boromir memes, adorable pet pictures, and assorted animated GIFs are taking just a 12-hour hiatus, Wikipedia will be shutting down all its English-language sites for a full 24 hours in protest of both SOPA and PIPA legislation. The blackout starts Wednesday at midnight — "DC time," emphasized Wiki founder and staring contest master Jimmy Wales over Twitter. The pages will reportedly be replaced with a call to action for people to write and call Congress - Wales says he hopes to "melt phone systems" in Washington.Read Article >
To quantify the scope of this move, Wales notes that the English-language Wikipedia sites get an estimated 25 million daily visitors globally, according to Comscore. Alexa currently ranks it as the sixth most popular site on the web, both globally and locally (behind Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, and Amazon for the US, swap the retailer for Baidu to get the global rankings). Your homework, of course, is at risk — as is anyone looking to quickly impress friends with their knowledge of the Balkan Empires, Gothic Fiction, hypothetical Solar System objects, animals with fraudulent diplomas, perpetual motion machines in history, or rabbit show jumping.
Jan 15, 2012
Rupert Murdoch, the aging, embattled, conservative media tycoon has been no stranger to controversy lately, and not the least of it has centered around his new Twitter account. The Fox and Wall Street Journal head has been surprisingly vocal since he joined the microblogging service just a few weeks ago — but none of his outbursts ring as clearly and loudly as recent tweets on the SOPA debate. Much of his vitriol seems aimed at Google, which Murdoch calls a "piracy leader."Read Article >
The News Corporation CEO tweeted, "So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery," and "piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts [sic] around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying," on January 14th, then followed up with justification stating that "film making is risky as hell" and targeting "hurting writers [and] actors." He also points out that when searching for the latest Mission Impossible film on Google, he was able to find a number of sites offering "free links" to the film.
White House raises concern over DNS-blocking bills; House tables SOPA vote until 'consensus' is reached
Today the Obama Administration issued a statement on the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect-IP Act, in response to two online petitions opposing the bills — the White House says that while it still supports anti-piracy efforts, it "will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet." The White House also says that it cannot endorse policy that "drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk." Since SOPA and PIPA would threaten DNSSEC, the White House's statement puts it in de-facto opposition to the bills in their current form (however, it's worth noting that the administration's statement does not necessarily mean that Obama would veto the bills if they reach his desk).Read Article >
Meanwhile, support for the bills in their current form is crumbling in Congress. The administration's statement is yet another strike against the controversial bills, following a number of setbacks for SOPA / PIPA supporters in the past week: yesterday, House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith said he plans to remove the controversial DNS blocking provision from SOPA, and PIPA's author, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said that "further study" is needed to sort out the consequences of the bill before it reaches a vote.
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House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith says he plans to remove the controversial DNS blocking provision from the Stop Online Piracy Act, according to a statement released on his website today. Smith says that he feels "we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision," and that "we will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to US consumers." If the removal of DNS blocking actually takes place, and holds, it would be an enormous victory for SOPA opponents that have been rallying in recent weeks to protest the bill. But there are still components of SOPA that are troublesome and controversial, and without seeing Smith's exact amendments we can't know for sure whether the worst parts have been eliminated.
Jan 13, 2012Read Article >
In an interesting wrinkle, Vice may have uncovered a copyright violation on Smith's own site. An old version of Texans For Lamar Smith, Smith's campaign website, apparently used a background image licensed under Creative Commons on the condition that the creator be attributed. Vice says it was unable to find attribution, and the photographer confirmed that Smith had never contacted him to use the image under other conditions, although it's always possible there was attribution in the metadata or somewhere else. When we tried to confirm, however, we discovered that the site had started using robots.txt to block archiving, something that wasn't in place when Vice wrote the article. If the image wasn't attributed, it may well have been an honest mistake — but SOPA's provisions could mean that foreign sites that make the same one would face disproportionately harsh penalties.
Jan 13, 2012
The Protect-IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) have been under fire in recent months over their potential to disrupt the internet as we know it — private citizens, politicians, and major companies like Google and Wikipedia have come out against the bills, and others, like Reddit, have even scheduled service blackouts to protest the measures. Now, under mounting pressure, PIPA's author — Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont — says that "further study" is needed to identify the positive and negative effects of the bill before it reaches a vote on January 24th.Read Article >
Leahy was sure to caveat his proposal heavily, stating that provisions of the bill are "essential to protecting American intellectual property," but it's certainly a positive step for opponents of the bill that have repeatedly called for the inclusion of additional experts. Of course, we'll still have to wait and see whether Congress reaches out to witnesses that don't work for the MPAA or RIAA.
Jan 12, 2012
Hitting back against the support by the Entertainment Software Association, Riot Games co-founder and CEO Brandon Beck took to the company's own forums to take an official stance against the SOPA and PIPA bills. The "generally apolitical" League of Legends developer has made the decision to speak out as it feels that the bills will kill streaming, threaten independent content creation, damage communities, threaten free speech, and even damage the foundation of the internet.Read Article >
The thread's drawn an impassioned response from the game's community, with over 1700 replies, though one on the first page stands out — that of Congressman Jared Polis, an avid LoL player and one of the people behind the rival OPEN bill. He says that SOPA "makes it far too easy for angry competitors to sue good law abiding companies out of existence," and calls upon other members of the community to write to their representatives in protest of the bill.
While Comcast's lawyers and lobbyists work on pushing the DNS-blocking Stop Online Piracy Act through Congress, the company's technical experts say that DNS rerouting (blocking) is now incompatible with its secure DNS system. In separate blog posts today, Comcast announced that it has fully implemented Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), and that it will be killing its own DNS rerouting service because it is incompatible with DNSSEC — Chris Griffiths, Comcast DNS Engineering Manager, says that "DNS redirect services... are technically incompatible with DNSSEC and / or create conditions that can be indistinguishable from malicious modifications of DNS traffic." In other words, Comcast has just made itself unable to comply with key provisions of the very law it is actively championing.Read Article >
It's a very peculiar twist in the SOPA story so far: it's clear now that even the most ardent supporters of SOPA don't have a consistent message on the bill's most controversial elements. We'll have to wait and see whether Comcast's legal or technical team wins out, but the argument for DNS-blocking just got a little murkier.
- Read Article >
Some opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act have wondered if any of the larger websites will conduct service blackouts, and now one major player is set to shutter its doors. Reddit says that it will be blacking out the popular content sharing website on January 18th for twelve hours from 8AM to 8PM EST. "Instead of the normal glorious, user-curated chaos of Reddit," the admins write, "we will be displaying a simple message about how the PIPA / SOPA legislation would shut down site like Reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action." The company says that "support for a blackout isn't unanimous," but that it believes the bill is a "serious threat to Reddit and the internet as we know it." Reddit's blackout may be be the largest and most dramatic to date, but we'll have to wait and see what kind of real impact it will have — twelve whole hours without adorable pictures of cats may just be the last straw for denizens of the web.
Jan 6, 2012
Music industry group the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has rejected OPEN (the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act), the bill proposed by Representative Darrell Issa and Senator Ron Wyden as an alternative to the controversy-laden SOPA. A chief difference between SOPA and OPEN is the governmental division responsible for enforcing infringements — while SOPA would be policed by the Department of Justice, OPEN would belong to the International Trade Commission.Read Article >
In a blog post on the RIAA website, Senior Executive VP Mitch Glazier says that the ITC "clearly does not operate on the short time frame necessary to be effective," citing the delays in the RIM vs. Kodak case — filed in January 2010 but now expected to be ruled on in September — as a prime example. Glazier sees these delays as hugely damaging, saying that each day a piracy-facilitating website stays online can cost millions of dollars to "American companies, employees and [the] economy," and be "an ongoing threat to the security and safety of our citizens." Classic scaremongering if we've ever seen it.
Dec 31, 2011Read Article >
It looks like SOPA has finally made it to the big time. Ron Paul — one of the many Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential election — blasted the proposed legislation during a talk on the campaign trail. It's not clear if he fully understands the details of the bill based on his comments that it will "take over the internet" and "monitor everything we do," but it's more than clear that he opposes restrictive online legislation, and that's a good thing. Check out the video below to see it for yourself, and keep following along with all the SOPA news in our ongoing StoryStream.
Dec 26, 2011
Users of domain registrar Namecheap who've been trying to transfer domains in from GoDaddy in the wake of its SOPA revolt in the past couple days have been running into a bit of a speed bump: Namecheap alleges in customer service emails that GoDaddy is blocking its WHOIS requests, which means it needs to "manually insert WHOIS details into the form." In a follow-up blog post today, Namecheap also says that GoDaddy "appears to be returning incomplete WHOIS information" in violation of ICANN rules, taking the opportunity to sling a little mud in GoDaddy's direction:Read Article >
It turns out that GoDaddy's move isn't new, though — it's been happening for a long time, long before SOPA entered the vernacular. Without knowing of the registrar in question (Namecheap), GoDaddy had this to say:
Dec 23, 2011
If you've been on the web in the past couple of weeks, you may know that the debate around the Stop Online Piracy Act has reached a fever pitch: petitions have been offered, scathing editorials written, boycotts proposed, and members of Congress have spent more than a dozen hours arguing and hurling insults at one another while teasing the public with shifting dates for the bill's debate. (If you don't know what SOPA is or what it does, be sure to check out our analysis.)Read Article >
Of course, SOPA is just the latest incarnation of copyright law reform that Congress and others have been attempting to push through for some time, and the current debate has evolved from two bills that inspired much of the language in SOPA — S.978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, and S.968, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, which were both introduced in the Senate back on May 12th.
Dec 23, 2011
Although the pressure was enough to cause GoDaddy to withdraw its support for now, the company still believes similar reform is ultimately necessary — in its statement, company CEO Warren Adelman said that legislation to fight piracy is important, but that "we can clearly do better... Getting it right is worth the wait." We'll see how the company decides to act on that thinking in the future, and if it decides to stay involved — the fight over SOPA is just beginning, and ultimately the GoDaddy saga is but a sideshow.Read Article >
Dec 22, 2011
I walk by a pretty good bootleg DVD stand a few times a month — the proprietor sets up at irregular intervals in Union Square just a few blocks away from The Verge offices in New York. Instead of just offering up ripped DVDs with handwritten titles in paper sleeves, he sells meticulous copies of the entire package from sleeve to disc label, and there are a few legitimate used DVDs thrown in for flavor. If not for the suspiciously low prices and the occasional printing error, you might not ever know the entire operation was operating in brazen defiance of the law.Read Article >
Stands like these are an important touchpoint when you read or hear about the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and its sister bill in the Senate, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA. Both bills attempt to deal with online sites that traffic in illegally copied content, but at extreme cost of remaking the architecture of the internet itself. That’s a high price to pay, especially since neither bill will actually curb real piracy: SOPA and PIPA are the effective equivalent of blowing up every road, bridge, and tunnel in New York to keep people from getting to one bootleg stand in Union Square — but leaving the stand itself alone.