Political Animal


January 15, 2012 8:00 AM Putting SOPA on a shelf

By Steve Benen

Misguided efforts to combat online privacy have been threatening to stifle innovation, suppress free speech, and even, in some cases, undermine national security. As of yesterday, though, there’s a lot less to worry about.

At issue are two related bills: the Senate’s Protect IP Act and the even more offensive Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, both of which are generated intense opposition from tech giants and First Amendment advocates. The first sign that the bills’ prospects were dwindling came Friday, when SOPA sponsors agreed to drop a key provision that would have required service providers to block access to international sites accused of piracy.

The legislation ran into an even more significant problem yesterday when the White House announced its opposition to the bills. Though the administration’s chief technology officials officials acknowledged the problem of online privacy, the White House statement presented a fairly detailed critique of the measures and concluded, “We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” It added that any proposed legislation “must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet.”

Until now, the Obama administration had not taken a position on the issue. The response was published yesterday as part of the online “We The People” petition initiative launched by the White House last year.

Though the administration did not issue a formal veto threat, the White House’s opposition signaled the end of these bills, at least in their current form.

A few hours later, Congress shelved SOPA, putting off action on the bill indefinitely.

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said early Saturday morning that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised him the House will not vote on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) unless there is consensus on the bill.

“While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House,” Issa said in a statement. “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”

It’s possible that a related version of SOPA could come back at some point down the road — though probably not this year — but for now, the push against the bill has succeeded beautifully.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


  • c u n d gulag on January 15, 2012 8:06 AM:

    Oh, you can bet they'll try again.

    And if we get Mitt and a Republican Congress, they won't let this turn into a long and drawn-out SOPA Opera - they'll get it passed PDQ!

  • Spell Check on January 15, 2012 8:13 AM:

    You use privacy twice where you mean piracy.

  • Danp on January 15, 2012 8:21 AM:

    I guess this means even more Justin Beiber on the internets. Ugh.

  • Cauteloso on January 15, 2012 8:35 AM:

    "Though the administration did issue a formal veto threat, the White Houseís opposition signaled the end of these bills, at least in their current form." Do you mean "did not issue"?

  • AndThenThere'sThat on January 15, 2012 8:55 AM:

    the Senate's Protect IP Act and the even more offensive Stop Online Piracy Act in the House

    Next time it will be called the Stop Al Qaeda's Global Terrorism Network Act.

  • Goldilocks on January 15, 2012 10:54 AM:

    There is a false and unsubstantiated assumption applied to piracy which is that people who avail themselves of free copies of films or other copyrighted material would otherwise buy them. No - most people who use pirated material would simple not have access to them if they had to pay. Companies who claim billions of dollars of lost revenue because of piracy have made a false and exaggerated calculation. This should be properly analysed and pointed out.

    Furthermore, the less easily quantifiable benefit the entertainment industry enjoys through widespread exposure and appreciation would substantially disappear if piracy were ended. This would have a significant effect on the non-monitory energy they thrive on. - A more difficult point to argue but valid nonetheless.

  • Gummitch on January 15, 2012 12:24 PM:

    Steve, I'm sure you wrote this quickly but you really should take the time and go back and proof your own work. There are a number of sentences in which your meaning is pretty obviously the opposite of what is written.

  • oldswede on January 15, 2012 5:25 PM:

    But mighty Rupert the Morloch is angry. He wants his SOPA and is blaming Obama. Tsk, tsk.
    Expect Faux News outrage and meltdown momentarily.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on January 15, 2012 9:03 PM:

    Where does your congress critter stand on SOPA and PIPA?

  • Cladari on January 16, 2012 2:32 AM:

    So, do they have to give the money back or can they keep anyway ?

  • Mattes on January 16, 2012 4:34 AM:

    How fucked up world is, we see our government as a enemy, not as people who represent us, the people...

  • MissMudd on January 16, 2012 4:52 AM:

    Yay! And congrats, Steve, this column just made the front page of reddit.com


  • To - c u n d gulag on January 16, 2012 6:08 AM:

    c u n d gulag on January 15, 2012 8:06 AM:

    Oh, you can bet they'll try again.

    And if we get Mitt and a Republican Congress, they won't let this turn into a long and drawn-out SOPA Opera - they'll get it passed PDQ!

    HAHAHAHA that is funny! do some research with republicans on this topic........ just because a fool wants it, it does not mean others do, unlike your IDIOTS on the left that follow each other a dog in heat.

  • harry tuttle on January 16, 2012 6:21 AM:

    Perhaps Murdoch could make all his websites go blank to protest this decision.

    Preferably for a lot longer than a day.

  • Matt on January 16, 2012 6:40 AM:

    How about some proof reading?

  • qwertyuiop on January 16, 2012 7:40 AM:

    This small battle may be won, but the war is far from over. The war ends when all the corrupt corporate shills are out of government and working as janitors.

  • Scormus on January 16, 2012 8:52 AM:

    Next time they will just bury the bill inside an omnibus spending bill, where if it isn't passed, the government runs out of money. Mark my words on that.

  • lo5t_h0rizon on January 16, 2012 9:39 AM:

    you made quite a mistake, however the battle against on-line privacy and the battle against on-line piracy are pretty much the same thing as all they want is to check our downloads anyway.

  • AKM on January 16, 2012 9:46 AM:

    PIPA is still around and it's just as bad. We must kick it down as well.

  • bombstalf on January 16, 2012 9:46 AM:

    This is bs! Obama lost my vote ! We need SOPA!!

  • bgtinc on January 16, 2012 9:50 AM:

    "Though the administration did issue a formal veto threat"

    Can you proofread?

  • AKM on January 16, 2012 9:51 AM:

    SOPA and PIPA will not stop piracy. Bypassing a DNS block is easy.

    Valve said it right: the piracy problem is a service problem. And Valve is the largest online distributor in the world.

    Also remember, the same industry that is whining about piracy today has been whining about the VCR as well.

    And for what? For greedy politicians in DC controlling your life even more?

    Why do you think politicians jump so gleefully at this bill? They want to control our lives. The internet is the place where we can still say what we want. And politicians hate that.

    In Germany some politicians are talking about outright restricting access to the net in order to "fight crime" and "protect children". They want the police to use trojans.

    Politicians fear the internet because they can't control it.

    It's us, the people, against them, the political aristrocracy.

  • JC on January 16, 2012 9:53 AM:

    Oi bombstalf, I hope you don't use the internet too much. This passes, it goes away. All of it. Not just the parts you don't want. Imagine a giant cartoonish "On/Off" switch, with someone waiting to flip it to Off when this passes. Then the U.S. loses all internet connectivity, and it won't be brought back until we prove these nuts have been dealt with.

  • MASTER260 on January 16, 2012 9:58 AM:

    @Danp Actually, this means less because the only people who would have benefited from SOPA would have been the government & entertainment industry. Justin Bieber's part of the entertainment industry.

  • Bob on January 16, 2012 10:06 AM:

    Because you and your coworkers didn't take the time or effort:

    - "Misguided efforts to combat online privacy" (you meant piracy)
    - "both of which are generated intense opposition" (verbs not in agreement)
    - "Though the administrationís chief technology officials officials acknowledged the problem of online privacy" (officials appears twice and privacy instead of piracy again)
    - "Though the administration did issue a formal veto threat" (they actually didn't issue a formal veto threat)

  • deebee on January 16, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Keep up your guard everyone. This will be back with a different face and name but will still be the nasty SOB it always was.
    Its lurking in the shadows ( where it belongs ) biding its time, but ' something ' will have to happen at some point. These old media dogs will demand a meaty bone they can get their teeth into.
    In the meantime the tech titans need to learn to fight dirty down there at street level, this 'victory' is pretty bloodless, the next one will be fought bare knuckle.

  • smittyfree on January 16, 2012 10:56 AM:

    In the fifth stanza, I think you meant, "Though the administration did **not** issue a formal veto threat, the White Houseís opposition signaled the end of these bills, at least in their current form."

  • Eerie on January 16, 2012 10:58 AM:

    "And if we get Mitt and a Republican Congress, they won't let this turn into a long and drawn-out SOPA Opera - they'll get it passed PDQ!"

    You have no idea what you're talking about. Spreading partisan BS only serves to distract people from the truth. You could have easily learned more about this issue if you cared to, but chose to spread ignorance instead:
    ^(hint: don't vote for anyone on the left-side of the page)

    ++What about the both parties supporting indefinite detention of American Citizens without trial?

  • yahoo258 on January 16, 2012 11:01 AM:

    @ trolls
    I don't see u writing boots abt this that people look @. Stfu abt his blog page not being 100%.

    Also. Very happy to see that SOPA got Pwned.

  • Paul Lorinczi on January 16, 2012 11:06 AM:

    @Cladari - Best question by far. Shared it with the whole office.

  • fjpoblam on January 16, 2012 11:17 AM:

    Your headline used exactly the right word: "shelved". This is only a temporary pause. Before too long, somebody'll go into the pantry and bring it out to re-open this can of worms. "I'm ba-a-ack!"

    Heck, are movie stars for it? The rich and the famous? Then it can't be all bad. Right?

  • Alex on January 16, 2012 11:28 AM:

    They'll never stop trying... corrupt governments never do.

  • RE: Spell Check on January 16, 2012 11:42 AM:

    I think that was the point.