Obama issues statement on SOPA

Administration says there's a need for new laws to fight online piracy but expresses concerns with legislation currently before Congress.


After weeks of brewing controversy over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), the Obama administration has broken its silence on the subject. In a statement released today, three administration officials stressed the need to fight online piracy in ways that wouldn't curtail freedom of expression, negatively impact cybersecurity, or stifle innovation.

Obama has heard the outcry over SOPA but stopped short of taking a stance on the legislation.
Obama has heard the outcry over SOPA but stopped short of taking a stance on the legislation.

However, the administration said little about the specific pieces of legislation in question, choosing instead to simply outline its desire that new legislation be narrowly drafted and not open to abuse.

"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," according to the statement.

One issue the statement specifically addressed was DNS filtering, a practice by which SOPA would allow the government to block Americans' access to specific foreign sites suspected of engaging in piracy. However, that issue had become considerably less contentious in the preceding days. Yesterday, the bill's original sponsor, Rep. Chairman Lamar Smith (R, TX), said he planned to remove the DNS filtering provision from the law. On Thursday, PIPA sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D, VT) said he would strip the DNS filtering language from his own legislation.

The statement also called on content companies and Internet platform providers to work together on new ways to fight online piracy without undermining freedoms. In a similar fashion, the Obama administration said it would continue working with Congress in a bipartisan effort to provide content creators with new legislative tools to achieve the same.

SOPA and PIPA have become a point of contention in the gaming world of late, with publishers and developers split in their support for the bills. Though the Entertainment Software Association officially endorses the legislation, a number of studios have come out against it, including Bungie, Epic Games, Riot Games, and Mojang.

Companies that support the bill--including the National Football League and GameSpot parent company CBS--argue that it offers necessary protection to content creators. Opponents of the bill, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argue that SOPA infringes upon First Amendment rights and will ultimately deprive the Internet of non-infringing content.

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