The White House Isn't Happy With SOPA Either

Critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act, you just might have a new ally: The President of the United States.

The White House responded to a pair of online petitions today, expressing support for anti-piracy legislation but outright refusing to back the anti-piracy measures as outlines in the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act.

"While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet," the White House said in a letter signed by three officials involved in budget, technology and cyber security.

The letter supports the idea of anti-piracy legislation but specifies that such legislation now being considered by Congress in the forms of SOPA and PIPA must be directed at foreign pirate sites, allow for due process, permit freedom of expression, not stifle the internet or business start-ups and should not interfere with the Domain Name System that enables the web to work together. (The DNS-blocking provision was tentatively stripped from SOPA this past week.)

The SOPA and PIPA bills, as currently written, would empower the United States to force search engines to blacklist sites accused by private companies of blocking their copyrights. It would also require "US-directed" sites to be cut off from online payment providers and ad networks if copyright holders could convince a court that those sites were infringing on copyrights. It would also make the streaming of video online that contains copyrighted material a violation of copyright.

Altogether, US media companies such as Viacom and Time Warner have argued that these measures would help stamp out online piracy. But critics, including YouTube, Reddit and an increasingly vocal community of web users, have said that the combined measures would chill speech and threaten to put the likes of YouTube and Reddit out of business. They've raised the spectre that even posting a LOLCat image on a message board, if said LOLCat image was copyrighted, could trigger an action to delist the site hosting that message board and cut off its income.

Numerous video game companies have protested the legislation, saying it threatens their businesses and such things as message boards and online streaming services. The gaming industry's top trade grop, the Entertainment Software Association, has lobbied in support of the bills.

The full SOPA letter that is also posted on the White House's website, appears below [emphasis in the original]:


By Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, and Howard Schmidt

Thanks for taking the time to sign this petition. Both your words and actions illustrate the importance of maintaining an open and democratic Internet.

Right now, Congress is debating a few pieces of legislation concerning the very real issue of online piracy, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act, and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN). We want to take this opportunity to tell you what the Administration will support-and what we will not support. Any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet.

While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. 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.

We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

Let us be clear-online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response. We should never let criminals hide behind a hollow embrace of legitimate American values.

This is not just a matter for legislation. We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy.

So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here? Don't limit your opinion to what's the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what's right. Already, many members of Congress are asking for public input around the issue. We are paying close attention to those opportunities, as well as to public input to the Administration. The organiser of this petition and a random sample of the signers will be invited to a conference call to discuss this issue further with Administration officials and soon after that, we will host an online event to get more input and answer your questions. Details on that will follow in the coming days.

Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis on legislation that provides new tools needed in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting, while vigorously defending an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security and innovation. Again, thank you for taking the time to participate in this important process. We hope you'll continue to be part of it.

Victoria Espinel is Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget

Aneesh Chopra is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President and Associate Director for Technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Howard Schmidt is Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to debate SOPA on Wednesday, January 18. On that same day, some websites, including Reddit, are planning to go dark to raise awareness about the perceived harms of the legislation.

The White House letter, while not a veto threat, increases the odds that SOPA and PIPA, if reconciled, passed and sent to the US president's desk, just might not be able to be the law of the land without significant changes.

Obama Administration Responds to We the People Petitions on SOPA and Online Piracy [White House]



    About time the American Govt. stopped listening to those greedy fatcats in Hollywood and on Wall Street.

      The issue is about censorship and protection of civil liberties. The white house is supporting copyright law and the protection of ip from greedy delusional pirates. They are saying SOPA is not the way to do this. I agree with them.

      Perhaps someone could copy the article. Remove the authors name. Mess up a few lines. Put it on a torrent - then you would actually READ what you are commenting on.

    I was pretty damn happy when I saw Obama tweet about it.

    Obama is the man. I wish I have Obama as the president in my country.

      lol I love when people say things like this, Obama has been a lousy president, people seem to like him because they think he is cool but they ignore how lousy he has been.

        lol hes hardly been lousy. He introduced nation wide health care, killed osama bin laden and stopped the war in Iraq. Hes tried to do a myriad of other things too only to have been shut down by an impossibly unmovable republican senate that has fought him on any change he has tried to make. Also its not his fault he was left with George Bush's horrible damage to the economy.

          I haven't read enough on his health care acts but on your two other points: He killed Osama Bin Laden by illegally entering Pakistan without their knowledge and executing him without trial and He did not end the war. The Afghan government would not give their troops immunity to their crimes so they were forced to pull out.

            To be fair, Osama was armed and fighting back.

              Not according the the US governments own statements:

              The first 'incorrect' reports are always the ones that people remember. Delve a little deeper and you'll realise how much of what you are told is false.

          Bullshit, you've been fed lies.
          Osama was killed with Bush's plan from when he was president. The healthcare thing is still as issue.
          He said he'd fix the war on drugs but hasn't.
          I'm sure there's tonnes of other things wrong with what he's done but I don't pay that much attention.

            he signed that thing that allows US citizens to be locked up & tortured without prosecution if they're suspected to be involved with terrorist organisations/crimes.
            I just remembered.

        Been a lousy pres? What has he done wrong? Started two wars, killing thousands upon thousands of innocent people? Stood by and did nothing to prevent or stop the GFC, and then finally decide to give massive bailouts to the very people who caused it? How about doing nothing while his country's own citizens lives were torn apart by hurricane Katrina?

        Oh, wait. That was the last guy. So tell me again what makes him a lousy president?

          Comparing two "bad" presidents doesn't make either one "good"

        I'm just gonna state this right now because its obvious to anyone who follows politics. Republicans basically own the Senate at this point. Any move Obama made was blocked and fought on, which meant because of the bigger numbers it' be almost impossible to gain a majority on any platform he provided.

        You know why he signed the NDAA? Because vetoing it would have been pointless since a majority of the Whitehouse was determined to pass it.

        You wanna blame someone? Blame the republican party which has done all it can to make sure that Obama only stays on for one term and that they can make one of their own President, who will probably wreck everything the way Bush did.

        You might not like Obama, but christ you'd have to be goddamn stupid to even consider the Republican party as viable at this point with all the damage they've done.

        With a hostile senate against his ideas( they fought against free healthcare for christs sakes) how the hell did you expect him to do much of anything?

          How does one get into senate though? I think there you will find an answer and who to 'really blame'.

            Originally, senators were selected by the state legislatures, not by popular elections. By the early years of the 20th century, the legislatures of as many as 29 states had provided for popular election of senators by referendums. Popular election to the Senate was standardized nationally in 1913 by the ratification of the 17th Amendment...

            whats your point? blame the people who voted in a democratic for pres and then a republican majority in the senate?

        People seem to have that perception but the reality - when you actually look into it - is that he's been pretty effective under unbelievably bad circumstances.

        Outside the echo chamber that is 'merica it's easier to clearly see what's happening which is the main reason why he's so much more popular overseas. It was the same with Clinton only now the right wing media is foghorning completely random made-up shit instead of one not made up but completely meaningless shit.

    The Presidents computer says 'no'.

    Reddit any YouTube should just 'shut down' for 1 day, when you click on their link it transports you to a page that states 'THIS WEB DOMAIN HAS BEEN TAKEN DOWN AS PER CLAIMS OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT' or something along those lines. This would send the internet, and possibly the general public, into a massive shitstorm and take action and fight against SOPA.

      Reddit and many other sites are doing a 'black out' protest on the 18th. There were rumbles about Wikipedia joining, but i am not sure what they are going to do.

      Would be nice if pages such as YouTube, Facebook and WordPress could join in, wince it would more or less shut down a good portion of the internet, and users, who are not in the know, would get an actual feel for what the ramifications of this bill might be.

    Didn't Obama say he disagreed with the NDAA but still signed it anyway?

    "It would also make the streaming of video online that contains copyrighted material a violation of copyright. "

    Sounds like a good way to make bronies mad.

    Google should just flex its muscles and prevent access to youtube or google from american ip's for a day and replace it with an anti SOPA message so the masses see it.

    "We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy."

    Sadly words like that just encourage companies like EA and Ubisoft to continue DRM practices. Oh and good timing. Mass Effect 3 will require Origin regardless of where you purchase the PC version.

    Wait, what the fuck?

    "new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws"

    Since when did US law apply to people with nothing to do with the US?

      I was under the impression that the sites that get blocked would only be blocked in America so that Americans could not see them. For example if a pirate website was based in Europe or China, where American Law has no effect and no way to stop them, and it was viewed by a Computer/person in America it would then be quickly blocked for viewing in America. Still potentially (more than likley) fuck the internets and businesses the world over

    A surprisingly sane letter! This is wonderful!! I'm worried about them trying to apply US law to non-us locations (I'm not a US citizen nor live there. Why do they suddenly get to apply their laws to me??), I'm ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED that the current administration wants to protect the structure of the internet, innovation, and personal security and rights. I payed particular attention to their crucial mention of ensuring due process in legal matters. GREAT!!! Please apply it to the NDAA, so your citizens actually have civil rights and can't be indefinitely detained, BY SOLDIERS, for 'suspicion' of involvement with terrorist groups. I don't need, surely, to explain it's potential for misuse, and what that implies given imprisonment without trial by non-police. Thanks once again for opposing SOPA, and preserving basic rights to free speech, in America and abroad :D. Please also get on that NDAA!!

    it look like the gov can't afford the wellfar onslaught of millions of sudden job loses.

    Yeah I was hopeful with Obama and all the "change" he was on promising. But it's still business as usual in America.

    america was built on freedom, this takes it away, im aussie but i no my history

      Do you k(no)w how to read? Because you haven't read the article. FYI - actually America is built mainly on land. Some of it is built on platforms over the water.

    I have to say, all piracy issues aside, that is a brilliant political maneuver! IMHO Obama is gambling on the same turnout as The 2009 election, under which circumstances, this move will have given him a massive voter demographic - also the president of the goddamn United States of America opposes SOPA, Hell Yeah!

    Go OBAMA... he better get re-elected

    Well that's good. Here i was thinking that SOPA looks like something that could almost be adopted the Australian government in its brutal and draconian nature. looks like the decision makers in the U.S. government are smarter than that. That's a relief. Hopefully we won't see a SOPA equivalent appear here. Wait... never mind. Stop this country. I want to get off!

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