It appears that the efforts made by a million petition signers, Twibbon banners, and general outcry over the proposed SOPA bill have actually had an effect: President Obama has indicated that should the law pass, he would likely veto it as it currently stands.
If you need a quick refresher, SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. Bill 3261). The goal of the bill is to cut down on the frequency of “torrent” websites where people can download, for free (and illegally), copyrighted content such as movies, television shows, software, and more. Unfortunately, the way that SOPA was written, many sites such as YouTube that host user-generated content felt that it would place such a major burden on them that it would, in effect, freeze out the internet, by doing things like legally preventing search engines such as Google from linking to sites that provided this copyrighted material.
Initially it was believed that President Obama; as recently as mid-December it was widely assumed that he would support it if it passed. According to The Hill:
House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he expects President Obama will sign the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a controversial measure to crackdown on online copyright infringement, if it clears Congress.
“I expect that the administration will support the bill because it helps create jobs for American workers and makes it harder for online thieves to steal America’s products and profits,” Smith, who sponsored the bill in the House, said in an email.
The statement from the White House said very clearly:
Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our 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 story isn’t quite over, of course: SOPA could be re-written and be brought back again. But for now, it appears to have been shelved. Good work, internets!