Well it's that time again! The festive season is upon us, though, for many in the US and indeed the wider world, the dark cloud known as the SOPA still lingers above, will it unleash a violent storm or simply a sprinkle of snow? Will it pass or simply fade away?
As far as the bill's progress is concerned, it's taking a breather during the winter holidays, delayed due to scheduling conflicts with extended talks over President Obama's tax plans. Discussions between the House Judiciary Committee will continue early next year on whether to present the bill to Congress for voting to legislate, however it's not looking promising for those opposing the bill, following a hearing on December 15th, Committee chairman Lamar Smith said, "I am pleased that the unfounded claims of critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act have overwhelmingly been rejected by a majority of House Judiciary Committee members ... The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical; none of it is based in reality. Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet. Their accusations are simply not supported by any facts. The much-needed legislation makes it harder for foreign thieves to steal and sell America's intellectual property. The Stop Online Piracy Act protects the profits, products and jobs that rightly belong to American innovators."
We suggest, however, taking Lamar's statement with a pinch of salt, the man is a strong supporter of the bill and whilst Committee chairman, his views were in conflict with others on the Committee such as Zoe Lofgren, who in the previous November 16th hearing, criticised the lack of technical expertise present on the panel along with the tone of the hearing, which she claimed dismissed the views of those who would be regulated under the new Act. Cyber-security subcommittee chairman Dan Lungren also expressed "very serious concerns" over the impact of the bill on DNSSEC, an initiative to protect clients from falsified DNS data, as it may conflict with the DNS blocking measures proposed by the bill. With over 20 amendments to the bill rejected during the December 15th mark-up, we suspect the situation to have changed little since these statements were issued a month earlier.
Meanwhile a list of firms officially supporting the Act has been released, leading to various individual company boycotts from opposition, with the most publicised a boycott of domain name provider and host, GoDaddy, with some companies pledging to transfer away thousands of domain names from the firm, with several domain name providers, such as Name.com, offering large discounts to those moving away from GoDaddy. Paul Graham, founder and investor of Y Combinator, a start-up funding and advice firm, announced intentions to stop inviting and remove anyone from the published list from the firm's demo days, a bold move given than some of the firms on the list have previously invested in the company and even hold stakes in the firm. When Paul was asked for his reasoning on the decision, he responded "If these companies are so clueless about technology that they think SOPA is a good idea, how could they be good investors?" It's worth noting that the average valuation of a company to have received Y Combinator investment is $22.4 million.
For now, SOPA is on pause, however, 2012 looks to be a very interesting year, holding opportunities for those in power to shape the internet for better or for worse. We know now from the released list, that many are in support of the new bill, though equally, many are against, such as the likes of AOL, eBay, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Mozilla, OpenDNS, Reddit, PayPal, Twitter, 4chan, Wikipedia and many more, which will no doubt make for some interesting coverage here at HEXUS.