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Obama Kicks SOPA Back For More Discussion

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

A White House blog post has sent the anti-piracy SOPA bill back to the drawing board

The White House said over the weekend that it opposes sections of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), throwing the controversial legislation into question.

President Obama’s intervention comes after sustained protest from the IT industry against a bill which critics say would allow censorship of the Internet by copyright holders and interfere with freedom of speech. The President’s vote of no confidence has all but killed the bill, according to the New York Times

Copyright owners will fight on

The SOPA bill was designed to make it easier to get pirated content off the Internet, but critics have said it would “break the Internet” and interfere with free speech.

The bill wouild require internet companies to censor links to sites believed to be hosting copyright material, and cut such sites off from services such as PayPal. These proposals have been opposed by the IT industry, even including games makers, and others who suffer from piracy and might have been expected to support it.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” said a White House blog, responding to two petitions against SOPA.

“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 US borders,” said the blog post, which also demanded that as well as legislation, all parties sholuld “adopt voluntary practices”  to stop piracy.

It is now expected that Congress will be asked to draft new proposals, leading to more arguments within the US Government. “We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet,” said the post.

‘Meaningful legislation’

Copyright owners and media companies are expected to fight to keep SOPA alive. The Motion Picture Association of Americ (MPAA)’s response welcomed the President’s commitment to oppose piracy, but included a renewed plea for the site-blocking powers that have been called into question.

“While we agree with the White House that protection against online piracy is vital, that protection must be meaningful to protect the people who have been and will continue to be victimized if legislation is not enacted,” said the MPAA statement. “Meaningful legislation must include measured and reasonable remedies that include ad brokers, payment processors and search engines. They must be part of a solution that stops theft and protects American consumers.”

President Obama’s opposition to SOPA prompted a tweet of protest from Rupert Murdoch, who also criticised Google over the weekend.“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery,” said the News Corporation boss.