Obama White House Opposes SOPA

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Opponents of bills currently in Congress that would restrict speech on the Internet scored a victory on Saturday as the White House came out in opposition to SOPA and PIPA as currently written. The White House statmenet comes in response to an online petition urging President Obama to veto the bills should they pass Congress. The White House did not, however, promise a veto if the bill is narrowed in its scope.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet. 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,” the White House statement reads in part.

Known as the Stop Online Piracy Act – or simply SOPA for short – the bill would give broad power to the Justice Department and copyright holders to restrict the viewing of websites. It could potentially lead to the end of sites such as Youtube, which rely on user-generated content. It would make it a criminal offense to stream copyrighted material such as game replays posted on the Internet. The New York Times came out against the bill, editorializing in November that SOPA and PIPA (the Senate companion to the House bill):

“…would empower the attorney general to create a blacklist of sites to be blocked by Internet service providers, search engines, payment providers and advertising networks, all without a court hearing or a trial. The House version goes further, allowing private companies to sue service providers for even briefly and unknowingly hosting content that infringes on copyright — a sharp change from current law, which protects the service providers from civil liability if they remove the problematic content immediately upon notification.”