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Sunday, January 15, 2012
White House Won't Back SOPA


The Obama administration won't back legislation to combat online piracy if it encourages censorship, undermines cybersecurity or disrupts the structure of the Internet, three White House technology officials said.

Right now, Congress is debating a few pieces of legislation concerning the very real issue of online piracy, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN).

The White House said that it would work with Congress on legislation to help battle piracy and counterfeiting while defending free expression, privacy, security and innovation in the Internet.

"Any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet," the White House officials said in a blog post.

"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," the the White House officials added.

The offcials said that any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by dynamic businesses large and small.

"Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing."

The offcials also resposnded to the DNS filtering provisions proposed by SOPA, which were recently removed by the proposed legislation.

"Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk."

The White House underlined that online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.

"It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response."

Tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others have questioned the legislation, warning in a Nov. 15 letter that it would force new liabilities and mandates on law-abiding technology companies and require them to monitor websites.


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