Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday that he will continue to advocate the passage of a contentious online piracy bill despite the White House's expressed concern about the legislation in a public statement to the American people.
Consumer group, Web companies and the American public have spoken out against the Senate's Protect IP Act and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The bipartisan-sponsored bill's are designed to target foreign Web sites that offer illegally-obtained copies of music, movies and television shows. However, a coalition of tech organizations including Facebook and Google argue the bill -- which would grant the U.S. Department of Justice and copyholders the power to obtain court orders against Web sites they claim infringe on their content -- could potentially censor free speech, suppress innovation and undermine the dynamic of the global Internet.
Despite the backlash, during a Sunday appearance on NBC's Meet the Press Reid said he hopes to push through an amended version of the bill that he said could be a winner for everyone, not just for the content people.
We need to work on this and we're going to -- I will hope we can have a manager's amendment when we get back here in a week or 10 days and move forward on this, Reid said.
Although it is unclear what an amended version of the legislation will look like, it will likely drop a highly-criticized provision that would require Internet service providers to block infringing Web sites through a process known as Domain Name System (DNS) filtering. As a result, internet providers and search engines would block web users' access to the offending sites, an action that SOPA critics argue would encourage online censorship and hamper internet users' freedom of expression.
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Leahy Says He Would Strip Criticized DNS Provision from Bill
Last week, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who sponsored the senate's Protect IP Act, said he would strip the DNS provision from the legislation. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also issued a statement saying that after consultation with industry groups he decided the DNS provision should be removed from SOPA so the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding the provision.
Reddit.com, an immensely popular user-generate Web site, announced that it will shut down its site for 12 hours on Wednesday, Jan. 18 to demonstrate the damage SOPA could have on the very infrastructure of the Internet. Dubbed Stop SOPA Day, the event's Web site provides links to so-called blackout banners for webmasters interested in joining the protest.
On Saturday the White House, in response to two petitions relating to SOPA that received thousands of signatures on its We the People web page, said while the Obama administration believes online piracy by foreign Web sites is a serious problem, it will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.
The administration said it would not support proposed laws that alter the technical architecture of the web through DNS manipulation, or those that target Web sites that are already under the jurisdiction of U.S. law.
The Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response, the response states.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the Protect IP Act on Jan. 24. The status of SOPA is currently unclear, according to The Hill.com. Although Rep. Smith's statement indicates he plans to move forward with the bill, the newspaper reports that Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif., and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have both said the House will not vote on the measure unless there is consensus on the bill.
UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, Wikipedia announced it will also blacked out on Wednesday to protest SOPA.