Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Obama: Don’t Worry Internet, I Got Your Back on That SOPA Thing

Last month, I took a lot of abuse from readers who said I was nuts to argue that President Barack Obama would veto the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), in the event that Congress passed it and sent it to his desk.

Today it became clear that SOPA, at least in its current form, will never get that far. Word came from the White House today that the administration, while sympathetic to the cause of curbing online piracy, will support neither the SOPA bill nor its companion bill — known as PIPA — in the Senate.

Responding to a petition, the White House announced in a blog post today that Obama will not “support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

Basically, what it comes down to is this: Piracy is bad, but approaches like SOPA are bad solutions that would potentially hurt the free-flowing, vibrant Internet we’ve all come to rely on for so many things. As the statement reads: “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.”

That aligns pretty closely with a statement that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made in a recent speech in The Hague, in which she said that governments must fight the theft of intellectual property, “without compromising the global network, its dynamism or our principles.”

On top of that, some of the technical proposals in the bill — meant to remedy the piracy problem — go too far in tinkering, and might perhaps mess up the basic plumbing of the Internet itself. Doing so would probably create unforseen Internet security problems, the White House argues.

Any bill that does aim to clamp down on piracy should be “narrowly targeted,” and cover only “activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws.” That’s also a pretty clear statement that the Administration sees SOPA, as currently written, to be vastly over-broad in its legislative intent.

Additionally, there are also reports that Eric Cantor — the Virginia Republican who everyone knows is the real power broker in the House of Representatives — says the SOPA bill won’t come to the House floor for a vote anytime soon, unless there are some significant changes to it.

Somehow, I find it encouraging that opposing SOPA — or at least calling for changes to it — was the issue on which Obama and Cantor, who can’t seem to agree on anything, found they had some room for common ground. Could this signify a badly needed thaw in bipartisan relations in Washington?


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