Senators change sides on SOPA/PIPA issue

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Several senators today abandoned their support of two highly controversial anti-web piracy bills making their way through Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, written by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., each pit Hollywood and the recording industry, which claim internet piracy is costing their industries billions in lost revenue owing to illegal downloads, against those fearing that the legislation would make internet service providers vulnerable to be shut down by legal authorities if they are suspected of hosting servers that facilitate the practice.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, who co-sponsored PIPA, and Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas, reversed course on Wednesday, urging that more time be taken to study the matter. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a co-sponsor of PIPA, also switched sides on Wednesday afternoon, stating on his website that the bill was "flawed as it stands today," and that he could no longer support it.

Protests at high visibility websites have attracted a good deal of media attention, as well as the support of a public wary of interference with internet offerings. Wikipedia, for instance went dark on Wednesday in opposition to the measures. Google has a black band across the logo on its home page, and Mozilla altered the appearance of its Firefox home page so users see a black page with a call to action.

"SOPA could negatively affect the Domain Name System (DNS), which is a fundamental building block of the internet," Paul Ferguson, senior threat researcher at Trend Micro, said in a statement sent to SCMagazine.com on Wednesday. "Indeed, DNS is critical to everything that makes the internet function."

"Making changes to how DNS works could inadvertently undermine everyone's internet security," he wrote.

While acknowledging the scourge of online piracy, the White House issued a statement earlier this week saying it will not "support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet.”

Leaders in the payments industry, heavily reliant on web commerce, also weighed in with their opposition to the measures. 

"SOPA poses a serious threat to the U.S. payment industry, and should be vigorously opposed," Aaron McPherson, practice director with IDC Financial Insights, wrote on a blog post on Wednesday.

Payment network providers could find themselves in the middle of a dispute with foreign-based websites under SOPA provisions, which would require network operators to stop processing payments should a copyright case arise, he said.

Nearly 92 percent of SCMagazine.com readers responding to an online poll this month expressed their opposition to SOPA.

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