House to take up SOPA debate again next month

Rep. Lamar Smith says the House will continue to try and enact legislation that protects consumers from "foreign thieves." The fight over SOPA, albeit a watered down version, goes on.

Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary committee, today said he expects the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act to resume sometime next month.

The fight in Congress over two antipiracy bills is shaping up to be bruising. Greg Sandoval/CNET

"To enact legislation that protects consumers, businesses, and jobs from foreign thieves who steal America's intellectual property," Smith said in a statement, "we will continue to bring together industry representatives and [members of Congress] to find ways to combat online piracy."

Smith suggested that further debate in the U.S. House of Representatives over the bill, which is designed to speed up the legal process involved with getting an accused foreign-based pirate site taken offline, would be sparked by related "retreats" members of Congress are scheduled to attend over the next two weeks.

Opponents of SOPA and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, similar legislation being debated in the Senate, threaten free speech and innovation (Read a roundup of our SOPA and PIPA coverage here ).

Critics of the bills may note that, regarding SOPA and PIPA, the only thing that has recently "retreated" has been support for the legislation .

Since Thursday, supporters of SOPA and PIPA have seen important provisions dropped, including one that would have required Internet service providers to block access in this country to accused foreign pirate sites. Some former supporters in Congress have complained that their constituents had voiced disapproval with how the bills are now written and asked for a delay in voting.

Even the president of the United States, supposedly a friend of the Hollywood film studios, major music labels, and other creators of intellectual property, appeared to cut and run from the legislative fight by going public with doubts about some of the bills' requirements.

The Capitol Hill fight over these bills is shaping up to be a doozy. Opponents from the technology industry are planning to hold a series of protests online and offline, starting tomorrow. Google plans to post some kind of link on its home page . Some opponents are gathering at the New York offices of Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Wikipedia, the Web encyclopedia, is expected to shut down for 24 hours starting tomorrow as part of the protest. Scribd and Wordpress are also expected to go dark.

Chris Dodd, the former U.S. senator from Connecticut, who is now CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), criticized the tech companies taking part in the protests.

"A so-called blackout," Dodd said in a statement, "is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this blackout to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts, and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy."

The MPAA is the trade group representing the six big Hollywood film studios: Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, and Universal.

In the Senate, a vote on PIPA is scheduled to take place on January 24.

 

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