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SOPA Is Back, And Sir Tim Berners-Lee Is Out To Stop It

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

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As the Stop Online Piracy Act comes back on Congress’s schedule, the father of the Web speaks out against it

Plans are afoot to revive the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) as soon as February, while  Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web has thrown his weight behind the protesters against the bill. Addressing 5000 people at IBM’s Lotusphere event in Orlando, Florida, Sir Tim spoke of the threat which SOPA poses to the open Internet pointing out the international effects of the bill and its negative impact on human rights. Meanwhile, a press release has revealed that the bill could resume its progress through the American Congress next month.

Is the bill back from the dead?

The SOPA bill would give Hollywood studios unprecendented powers to censor the Internet over suspected breaches of copyright, and has been widely criticised by people including President Obama. The bill was stopped in Congress when Republican leader Eric Cantor announced he was pulling the plug. It was expected to return in a different form, but its revival looks sooner than anyone expected: in the press release, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith  today said that he expects the Committee to continue its markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act in February.

“To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America’s intellectual property, we will continue to bring together industry representatives and Members to find ways to combat online piracy,” said Smith. “Due to the Republican and Democratic retreats taking place over the next two weeks, markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act is expected to resume in February.”

Opposition continues to the legislation from the technology community, which points out that the bill would “break the Internet” by allowing copyright holders to effectively remove sites from the domain name system (DNS), and interfere with free speech, since sites could be blocked on suspicion on vague charges of “”facilitating the activities” of copyright infringement.

“It affects all the stuff on the internet working and something which would affect what you want to connect to, where you want to connect to,” Sir Tim told the Lotusphere conference. “If you’re in America then you should go and call somebody or send an email to protest against these (censorship) bills because they have not been put together to respect human rights as is appropriate in a democratic country.”

His comments got “rousing applause” and were reported in outlets including the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sir Time has repeatedly stood up for the open Internet, criticised moves to interfere with Net Neutrality, and warning of the danger from walled gardens such as Facebook and iTunes.