Rep. Lamar Smith’s New SOPA Amendment Still Permits Internet Blacklisting

Representative Lamar Smith, the principal sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), has released a “manager’s amendment” that prohibits payment blockading but does not eliminate the blacklist provision.

Rep. Lamar Smith's New SOPA Amendment Still Permits Internet Blacklisting
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chief sponsor of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

The House of Representatives’ Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and its sister bill in the Senate PROTECT IP Act are highly controversial, owing to language that would permit the Department of Justice, in concert with copyright holders, to blockade website payment services and blacklist websites suspected of copyright infringement or piracy with little more than a notice of doing so.

One of the chief worries is that it will result in sites such as Tor—which provides anonymous communication for activists, dissidents and whistleblowers—being blacklisted because of suspicion of online piracy.

Yesterday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the principle sponsor of SOPA, released a “manager’s amendment” to H.R. 3261 in the House Judiciary Committee. The Smith amendment would not allow a private entity (copyright holder) to cut off payment services for websites with just a simple notice, but it would still allow private entities, in concert with the Department of Justice, to block websites at the internet service provider (ISP) level. This effectively amounts to “blacklisting,” which has been the main complain from inception.

AS Rep. Daryl Issa (R-CA), an opponent of the bill, notes in a statement, “The manager’s amendment retains the fundamental flaws of its predecessor by blocking Americans’ ability to access Web sites, imposing costly regulation on Web companies and giving Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice broad new powers to police the Internet.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Issa’s OPEN Act is a far better means of policing copyright infringement by empowering the International Trade Commission to investigate and remedy suspected piracy.

In a response to Smith’s amendment, EFF writes, “There is new ambiguity as to how the blacklist will be enforced (service providers who receive the order have some flexibility as to how they will comply) – but the effect will be the same: a balkanized Internet and a fundamental contradiction in U.S. Internet policy.”

Rep. Smith is now preparing to rush SOPA out of the Judiciary Committee and onto the House floor for a vote, and his amendment has done nothing to help allay fears from civil liberties groups and tech companies like Google, Facebook and others.

Read more about OPEN Act here.

Check out EFF’s “Fight the Blacklist: A Toolkit for Anti-SOPA Activism.”