In a moment of sense the House Judiciary Committee has decided to suspend the vote on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This decision comes after a marathon day of discussion on Thursday and a follow up half a day of discussion on Friday. Originally no new vote date was set leading to interpretation that it would not happen until next year. Late on Friday it was announced that the vote would now take place Wednesday December 21.
The decision to suspend the vote on SOPA came when Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the main sponsor of the bill and comittee chairman was met by a motion from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to suspend the vote until the committee could hear from experts. Specifically the experts needed to weigh in on exactly what security risks would be associated with altering DNS to block “rouge websites.”
During the 11 hour discussion on Thursday, Smith was adamant that hearing from experts about the dangers associated with altering DNS was not necessary. This seemed absurd considering there is a signed letter by 83 engineers and designers largely responsible for creating the Internet as it is today, urging the House Judiciary Committee that this bill would create major problems with Internet infrastructure as well as foster an atmosphere of fear that would stifle innovation.
The SOPA legislation currently has language that mandates ISPs to alter DNS entries to prevent users from navigating to offending sites. Engineers addressed this in their letter saying,
“The US government has regularly claimed that it supports a free and open internet, both domestically and abroad. We cannot have a free and open Internet unless its naming and routing systems sit above the political concerns and objectives of any one government or industry.”
Another concern is that altering DNS entries could introduce issues with the government’s planned rollout of DNS-SEC, a technology preventing hackers from using fake DNS entries to hijack sites.
After much urging, Chaffetz convinced Smith to delay the vote so the committee could hear from experts about the problems with security and DNS that would present themselves should SOPA be enacted as is. Originally the vote was delayed indefinitely leading everyone to believe it would be pushed until January. A few hours later Rep. Darrell Issa tweeted that the vote was moved to Wednesday December 21.
Hopefully the experts will be able to talk some sense into these representatives and this legislation will get voted down. Until then be sure to make your voice heard and call your representative to tell them what you think about SOPA and why they should vote no.