SOPA Update: Bill Faces Abrupt Delay in Committee

Posted by · December 16, 2011 4:42 pm

Contrary to most expectations, the Stop Online Piracy Act appears to have hit a roadblock before it even reaches the House floor. After coming before the House Judiciary Subcommittee this week, the proposed measure was assumed to be out of committee by week’s end.

However, an 11-hour Thursday session and more than 20 rejected amendments later, the Judiciary Committee is yet to be done with SOPA.

According to a Wired report, deliberation over the bill came to a sudden halt after a group of legislators, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, compelled Rep. Lamar Smith—SOPA’s chief sponsor—to postpone hearings on the bill until technical experts had a chance to analyze the proposed legislation and testify before the committee. Chaffetz specifically cited concerns over potential security risks that could be created by SOPA’s suspiciously vague language, specifically the provision dealing with sites “dedicated” to infringing activity.

After initially shrugging off such a request as unnecessary the day before, Smith agreed to delay further debate over the bill until the “earliest practical day that Congress is in session.”

Considering the upcoming holiday recess on Capitol Hill, it will be weeks—probably late January—before such a “practical day” becomes available.

For those who oppose the bill, this news comes as an all-too-welcome victory. A few extra weeks will allow SOPA opponents to compile a better case against the bill before the committee reconvenes next year. Further, critics of the bill will also be able to capitalize on public awareness campaigns against the bill, most notably the “Keep The Web Open” initiative currently being co-run by Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrel Issa.

Meanwhile, additional concerns over the bill have surfaced since this blog’s most recent coverage of SOPA.

In addition to the considerable power that the bill would grant financial institutions and ad networks against alleged violators and the less-than-concrete terminology that litters the legislation, a Yahoo! report on the bill suggests that web users would also be significantly affected by SOPA’s passage.

The report reads: “Beyond expanding the government’s provisions for enforcing copyright laws, SOPA would also make streaming copyrighted material a felony under U.S. law, punishable by up to five years in prison.”

Meanwhile, SOPA’s companion bill in the Senate—the PROTECT IP Act—has successfully made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee.