Lawmakers want House Judiciary Committee to slow online piracy bill

Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act urged House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to hold additional hearings on the bill rather than report it out of committee during Thursday's markup.

During a lively and lengthy markup featuring passionate arguments from both sides on the controversial online piracy legislation, opponents argued the committee has yet to hear from technical experts on the potential consequences of the bill for security and free speech.


Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzCongress's latest hacking investigation should model its most recent Fox News Audio expands stable of podcasts by adding five new shows The myth of the conservative bestseller MORE (R-Utah) compared the bill to performing surgery on the Internet without having a doctor in the room and said the committee has moved far too quickly on such sweeping legislation.

"I worry that we did not take the time to have a hearing to truly understand what we're doing ... maybe we ought to ask some nerds what this [bill] really does," Chaffetz said, suggesting his colleagues lack the technical expertise to evaluate the cybersecurity issues at hand.

"If you don't know what DNSSEC is, you don't know what you're doing," referring to Domain Name System Security Extensions.

Chaffetz's concerns were echoed by House Cybersecurity subpanel Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), who said he has heard from cybersecurity experts worried the bill will undermine critical network protections.

"I don't feel comfortable supporting this bill until the questions are answered," Lungren said, adding that he doesn't understand why the committee can't slow down the process. "I am frustrated with this process because so many question marks remain ... we better take the time to get it right."

Supporters of SOPA, including Smith and Intellectual Property subpanel Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (R-Va.), argued the manager's amendment offered on Monday addresses many of the concerns outlined by tech companies. Ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) suggested opponents were trying to delay the legislation via roughly 60 amendments but said it wouldn't work.

"If someone thinks a bill of this magnitude is going to stall because we got tired, they got the wrong think coming," Conyers said.

Goodlatte acknowledged the bill is not perfect but called it a "good bill" that he would continue to work to improve after reporting it out of committee. He noted the Justice Department cannot take any actions against rogue websites without first obtaining a court's approval.

But Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) argued the impact of the legislation would be historic because it would force U.S. firms to develop filtering and blocking technology that would likely be deployed by repressive governments seeking to censor content online.

"This will lead to the balkanization of the Internet," Lofgren said.

Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerProtecting the fundamental right of all Americans to have access to the voting booth Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell MORE (R-Wis.) agreed, citing concerns about security and censorship while voicing his opposition.

"I don't think this bill will be effective," Sensenbrenner said. "You don't go after the postal service or UPS when something is illegally shipped through that means of transportation. I don't think we should treat the Internet differently."

Despite concerns of several other committee members, voting on the amendments indicated that the committee would be likely to report the bill to the House for a vote as expected. Opponents argue SOPA is unlikely to gain support outside the Judiciary Committee, while its sponsors remain confident of its chances at passage if it comes up for a vote before the end of the year.