Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) [official website] announced [press release] Saturday that the US House of Representatives [official website] will postpone hearings on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) [text, PDF], a day after the bill's main sponsor Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) [official website] agreed to remove the highly contested [press release] Domain Name System (DNS) blocking provision of the bill. That section would have required Internet Service Providers (ISP) to block any foreign website suspected of copyright infringement. The bill is aimed at expanding the power of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and holders of copyrights to stop the spread of copyright infringement and counterfeit goods through the Internet. If the bill passes, the DOJ and copyright holders will be allowed to obtain court orders requiring advertising agencies and others who use a site's services to stop payments to the accused site. In regards to the bill, Smith said:
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.Many well-known websites have voiced their opposition to the bill. Earlier this week, popular social news site Reddit [website] announced it will shut down its site [press release] for twelve hours in protest to the bill. Reports have also suggested [CNet report] that other Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and Google [websites] are also considering "blackouts" in order to stop the bill's momentum. The Obama administration also came out against provisions of SOPA [press release] on Saturday.
Recently, there has been a surge in government attention to copyright issues. Earlier this month, the Spanish government approved a new law [JURIST report] that creates a government agency with the authority to force Internet service providers to block certain websites that are involved in pirating copyrighted material. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in November that ISPs cannot be required by law to monitor [JURIST report] their customers' activities as an attempt to combat illegal sharing of copyrighted material. In October, the US Supreme Court considered the issue of foreign copyrights in the case of Golan v. Holder when it considered arguments to determine the copyright status of foreign works [JURIST report] that used to be in the public domain. A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that a music file-sharing site could be held liable for contributory copyright infringement [JURIST report] in August.