Software Makers Shun SOPA Bill

In a reversal, Business Software Alliance now says the proposed anti-piracy law overreaches.
A group that represents a number of major software developers, including Microsoft, Adobe, and CA, has withdrawn its support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill, which would require Internet companies and other players in the tech ecosystem to deny services to suspected software pirates and copyright violators.

In a blog post, Business Software Alliance (BSA) president and CEO Robert Holleyman said that, while he believes the proposed SOPA legislation, (H.R. 3261) is well intended, it's too sweeping in its current form.

"As it now stands ... it could sweep in more than just truly egregious actors," Holleyman said. "To fix this problem, the definitions of who can be the subject of legal actions and what remedies are imposed must be tightened and narrowed."

Holleyman's stance marks a reversal for BSA, which originally supported the bill. In a press statement last month, Holleyman said the bill was "a good step" to "address the problem of online piracy."

Still, Holleyman said he hasn't given on up on SOPA, and believes it can be amended so that it helps stamp out Internet piracy without trampling on the rights of legitimate Internet companies. "BSA stands ready to work with (House Judiciary Committee) chairman Lamar Smith and his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to resolve these issues," he said.

[ Learn more about SOPA. Read SOPA: 5 Key Provisions Of Anti-Piracy Bill. ]

Smith (R-Texas), along with 12 co-sponsors, introduced SOPA in October. The bill is meant to prevent the theft of intellectual property that's online and in particular seeks to clamp down on foreign websites that steal content from American producers. Critics, however, say the bill amounts to Internet censorship.

Many of SOPA's provisions are aimed at foreign websites that stream or otherwise make available copyrighted content, such as movies and music, to U.S. audiences. SOPA allows the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against such sites to block them, using technical means such as DNS filtering.

The bill would require online service providers, like ISPs, search engines, ad networks, and payment providers, to withhold services to websites that are deemed by a court to be infringing copyrights held by U.S. content producers. Further, ISPs must block U.S. Web users' access to such sites.

SOPA takes specific aim at purveyors of online pharmaceuticals that sell drugs to individuals without a prescription. It authorizes ISPs and other Web services providers to withhold services to such sites, many of which operate from India and Canada.

It also requires the secretary of state and secretary of commerce to appoint intellectual property attaches to all embassies in foreign countries. Part of the attaches' remit would be to work with local authorities to establish programs to cut down on intellectual property theft.

SOPA currently sits in the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet. It has yet to be introduced to the floor for a vote.

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