The Stop Online Piracy Act has hit a major snag, with the House Judiciary Committee adjourning before it could send the bill to the floor — and setting no date to continue proceedings. It's not a deathblow — not by a longshot — but it's a welcome pause for consideration for a bill that has the potential to grow into a digital Patriot Act.
The bill — H.R.3261 — was expected to pass out of committee today, which would have meant it would go to the floor to be voted on by the House. The proceedings have been long, and far from engaging — but now it looks like they won't continue until some time in early January at the earliest.
If SOPA does eventually pass, it has the potential to drastically change the internet landscape as it exists. It essentially gives the Justice Department carte blanch to force ISPs to blacklist sites and block incoming traffic to them, by one method or another. Infringing sites could be targeted even if only a small portion of their users stood accused of violating copyright law (sorry Reddit!). Plus, pretty much everyone's sure that the whole thing would just lead to elaborate workarounds and only succeed in undermining the integrity of the DNS system.
Meanwhile, there is a similar bill floating around the Senate — the Protect IP Act (PIPA) — that is still due to come to a vote, possibly as early as this month. Both bills have been widely panned as a stepping stone to a closed internet like China's Great Firewall. We're not quite at the doorstep to that just yet, but don't discount the seriousness of what's at stake for the internet here: This is the widest, most aggressive, and most real push for total online censorship we've seen. . [Wired, TPM, OpenCongress, WHIR]