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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

SOPA Battle Won, but War Continues

The Stop Online Privacy Act hasn’t passed, but it could

  • December 16, 2011

The first thing you need to know about the Stop Online Piracy Act is that if a single commenter posted a single link to a piece of allegedly copyright-infringing material anywhere on TechnologyReview.com, the entire site could be shut down without notice and without the intervention of a court. Now imagine what that would do to Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. It is literally an Internet-ending piece of legislation.

The second thing you need to know is that earlier today, according to Congressional Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), SOPA was as good as passed.

So the Internet freaked out! Hackers figured out a technical workaround for the main provision of the bill, removal of websites from DNS servers, which are sort of like the postal code tables of the web, telling traffic where to go.

And yet! After a marathon 14 hour markup session, the badly outnumbered opponents of SOPA managed to bring the majority to heel, delaying passage of the bill out of committee and into the larger house until after Congress’s next break.

It’s not a victory, exactly, more like a stay of execution. But if the “geek lobby” can get this worked up about a bill that hasn’t even hit the full House yet, much less the desk of the president, the battle for an Internet that makes sense is far from lost. The key, of course, is to keep up the pressure.

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