In a move that could enable some form of anti-piracy legislation to pass this Congressional term, Rep. Lamar Smith (R – Texas), principal author of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), said this evening he will make adjustments in the bill to coincide with changes advised by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – Vt.) yesterday to the Senate counterpart bill, PROTECT-IP.
In his statement, Rep. Smith says the remaining portion of SOPA, still due for a vote on January 24, will still contain a provision that compels (though not directly forces) payment network providers to act in good faith to refrain from handling payment transactions for IP trafficking sites.
The complete statement from Rep. Smith’s office is as follows:
After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers.
Current law protects the rights of American innovators by prohibiting the illegal sale and distribution of their products by domestic websites. But there is no equivalent protection for American companies from foreign online criminals who steal and sell American goods to consumers around the world. Congress must address the widespread problem of online theft of America’s technology and products from foreign thieves.
The Stop Online Piracy Act cuts off the flow of revenue to these foreign illegal sites and makes it harder for online criminals to market and distribute illegal products to U.S. consumers. The bill maintains provisions that ‘follow the money’ and cut off the main sources of revenue to foreign illegal sites. It also continues to protect consumers from being directed to foreign illegal websites by search engines. And it provides innovators with a way to bring claims against foreign illegal sites that steal and sell their technology, products and intellectual property.
American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports. Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack. The Stop Online Piracy Act protects the products and jobs that rightly belong to American innovators.
The way the Senate’s PROTECT-IP act is currently structured, payment network providers would be granted immunity from prosecution for suspending service to the owner of a domain name listed in a court order. Sen. Leahy’s withdrawal of the court order provision yesterday makes it difficult to contemplate how this section of the Senate bill would be resolved.
By contrast, the way the House’s SOPA is structured, payment network providers would be granted immunity from prosecution simply for suspending service to “a foreign infringing site or… an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” SOPA does not specify whether a court must first make that determination. At any rate, after Rep. Smith removes the court order provision, the remaining immunity grant provision could conceivably stand without significant revision.