WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee postponed a planned third day of the markup hearing on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act due to the House schedule.
The bill, which would allow the government to take measures to prevent access to websites accused of hosting any material that infringes on copyrights, has drawn fire from a broad group of internet companies and free speech advocates.
It is supported by many giants of the entertainment media, who claim that they need the measure’s protections to stop losses to piracy facilitated through overseas websites which are largely immune to remedies offered by current laws.
Opponents of the bill fear that overbroad provisions could be used to censor legitimate expression. Websites that allow users to post content, like Facebook or YouTube do, could be at made inaccessible to U.S. visitors if any of their members posts something that allegedly violates copyright.
However, people are already coming up with workarounds. The internet depends on the Domain Name System, which turns easy-to-remember web addresses like NJTODAY.NET into a numerical Internet Protocol address so your computer can find the website. SOPA would prevent DNS servers from converting addresses of sites accused of infringement to IP addresses, which would normally prevent most users from accessing the sites.
However, if you know the IP address of a site, you can still get to it by typing the numerical address into your browser. A list of IP addresses for major websites that host user-provided content has already started circulating around the web.
Software developers are also creating plugins for the Firefox web browser that would circumvent U.S.-based DNS servers to allow users to continue to access blocked websites.
An online petition against the Stop Online Piracy Act that is hosted at Whitehouse.gov has already received more than 32,000 signatures since being created on Dec. 18.
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