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SOPA drops controversial DNS blocking provision
SOPA drops controversial DNS blocking provision
January 13, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

Lamar Smith, the Texas Representative behind the much-debated "Stop Online Piracy Act," has agreed to remove a controversial provision of the bill that would force internet service providers block access to foreign websites accused of hosting copyrighted materials.

This recent change eliminates one of the most contentious elements of the legislation, which could have blocked access to online game content or communities accused of violating copyright law. In its current state, the bill still allows copyright holders to seek court orders to cut off revenue sources from infringing sites.

In a statement on his website, Smith wrote that he has chosen to remove the DNS blocking provision of the bill "so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers."

This change comes soon after companies and organizations from throughout the online community spoke out against SOPA, decrying it for unfairly restricting ordinary citizens, placing too much power in the hands of large corporations, and more.

Over the past few days, game developers including Epic Games, Riot Games, Mojang, Red 5, and many more voiced their opposition to the bill, with some promising to shut down their games and websites in protest.

Detailing SOPA's implications for the games industry, Riot Games CEO Brandon Beck argued that the legislation could threaten online games by restricting user generated content, community features such as forums and in-game chat, and more.

In its own statement against the bill, PC game vendor said the bill would hinder the game community, but have minimal effect on the pirates it targets. "Pirates who torrent via P2P methods will not be inconvenienced in the least by SOPA and PIPA [the Senate's 'Protect IP Act']; people who post 'letís play' walkthroughs of video games on YouTube, though, may be," the site's organizers said.

Last week, the Electronic Software Association announced its support for the bill, though some developers, such as Weapon of Choice creator Nathan Fouts, spoke out against the organization for its decision.

The U.S. Congress' SOPA hearings are due to take place January 18 -- and Gamasutra will continue to provide ongoing coverage of the bill and its effects on the game industry.

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Marc Schaerer
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Would be interesting if SOPA happens at least to me and other developers outside the USA that are forced to see 'the USA as most important western market' at the time due to the single consistent mass if the US games industry gets shot down with such massive weaponry and basically gets bombed back into a 'china from the past' state where the rest outside of the USA basically ceases to exist at will of corps that already made enough money through previous anti competitive decisions from US courts and senate.

Would be an all new level of censoring beyond anything thats already applied in the day to day business against US citizens

Frank Diaz
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this has become such a pr stunt for these studios.. if anything, I've lost respect for them.. To the public they try to look like a responsible group, but they hide behind the ESA blanket which wholeheartedly supports SOPA.

Zoran Iovanovici
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My goodness, I'm so happy that other people are seeing websites like Reddit as just pulling PR stunts in their almighty "blackout" plans. The same can be said for some of the game companies doing this. I've said it many times, but many of us who have worked in politics fear that the idea of the planned internet blackouts is only a superficial tactic. Mostly it's just good PR for the companies doing it. It's unlikely to have a major effect on politicians; it'll only increase awareness for the few people visiting the sites who are totally clueless on the two bills.

Richard Eid
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This has to be the least problematic issue in the entire bill. DNS blacklisting would stop the average Joe from reaching a particular site, but if someone wants to access the site bad enough they'll get to it with or without the assistance of DNS. Having said that, for whatever reason it'll probably make a lot of people happy that DNS blacklisting is not a part of SOPA any longer. These people don't understand SOPA.

As for sites blacking-out for twelve hours...who really cares? So Mojang is going to go dark for twelve hours. All they'll be accomplishing is pissing off their customers for no reason. They offer a service that is non-essential for day-to-day life on the Internet. Same with every other site taking part. Namely: reddit. In their case, they'll just drive people to other sources for reading. Remember when Digg was the big thing? Now reddit, which is just a duplicate of Digg, is the big thing. When reddit goes away, another social networking site will take its place. Blacking out is only going to hurt them. At best, people will just be annoyed and then they'll be able to reach the site a few hours later. For what purpose? We're at the point where if you don't know or care about SOPA then you probably never will.

For these blackouts to truly be effective you'd need big players like Google and Facebook to blackout...sites that everybody uses every day and not having them would severely impact businesses far and wide. Or even just blacklisting IPs from Washington D.C. from accessing these services would get the same point across. After all, they aren't blacking-out to let me know about SOPA, they're blacking-out so that members of Congress will also be Congress reads reddit and plays Minecraft...and will see what impact SOPA could potentially have on their own lives. Sites participating in the blackout that are not U.S. based makes even less sense. Or are they just afraid of losing the business of U.S. based customers? If that's the case, then it's sorta hypocritical if you ask me. The entire world is critical of the U.S. but our money is still good...

Anyway, it would be the epitome of hypocrisy if Google or Facebook were to take part in this to "raise awareness" because let's face it...Google and Facebook will never in any way be affected by SOPA. They will never be at risk of being shut down and/or DNS-blacklisted(even though that's gone now). So for them to blackout would just be a PR stunt "to raise awareness" for their own products and services. Besides, Google would never blackout unless Microsoft blacked-out Bing during the same time period. And Facebook won't do it unless Google+ is also taken offline.

From what I've seen on the Internet lately, it is the people who have the loudest voices in opposition to SOPA that understand the least about it. And to be perfectly honest, RoW should have no voice on this one. Unless of course people want to take this same fight to China once this SOPA ordeal is done.

Justin Meiners
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I personally don't want the government controlling what sites I can and can't go to...

Bart Stewart
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It's a nice gesture by Rep. Smith but ultimately pointless. SOPA has become just another opportunity to throw hate at something. As with the "Occupiers," there's a small, articulate contingent that actually made the effort to study the issues, surrounded by a much larger mass of hipsters who show up any time there's a chance to publicly revile other people.

I give it no more than three weeks after SOPA is forgotten that there'll be some new threat to the ability to steal copyrighted stuff over the Internet for the takers of the world to oppose loudly.

To be clear: I'm inclined to oppose SOPA myself on principle. The Federal Register is already bloated beyond anything the Founders could have imagined in their worst nightmares of bureaucracy; it's hurting businesses and we don't need more of that. But SOPA is far from being as cut-and-dried a piece of Pure Evil as the pilers-on claim. Even if imperfect, it at least attempts to address the real problem of people thinking it's OK to steal stuff just because it's easy to clone ones and zeroes. If the anti-SOPA protesters were serious, they'd condemn theft and try to come up with solutions themselves instead of merely opposing the efforts of others.

Because if you just oppose any attempt to solve the problem of digital content theft, and never even acknowledge that this behavior discourages the creation of new forms of IP (much less try to help figure out a workable solution to this behavior yourself), then yes, you are part of the problem.

Megan Fox
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I believe a lot of us are of the opinion that, in the present market, there is very little that can be done to effectively combat piracy without severely damaging the internet (in this case) or the average user's experience (in the case of invasive on-disk protection). Faced with such alternatives, the only sane option is to instead focus on value-add methods of copy-protection. At worst, they at least only somewhat negatively impact the average user (as it is with increasing over-reliance on pack-in DLC), and at best, they improve the experience for everyone. That's the counter-suggestion - abandon attacks on piracy entirely in favor of equivalent spend in areas that might actually convert more consumers - which I guess you consider non-valid.

You want to effectively combat piracy? Increase broadband/always-on internet penetration to where it can be safely assumed to exist. That's the only way we can solve this without attacking the average user. You want to block piracy right now, no matter how much of a fool's errand it is to obsess about the number of people pirating your game? Pick a provider or game type that allows you to assume such or has such built in. Trying to do it via a massively invasive law (that itself still fails to prevent piracy) is not the answer.

Framing the overall opposition to SOPA as a bunch of pile-on hipsters is, at best, a gross and unfortunate over-simplification of the issue.

Adam Bishop
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Bart, are you familiar with the case of hip-hop website Dajaz1, which was seized under court order, held for a year as the government filed and repeatedly received secret extensions of the seizure, and then given back to the site owners with the government admitting that it should not have seized the site in the first place? Techdirt has a fantastic article on the whole thing -

This kind of scenario is *exactly* why opponents of SOPA are opposed to granting the government more power to shut down web sites with little if any oversight or judicial recourse. It's all well and good to say that in theory we should be going after piracy, but in the past the government - sometimes working directly with entertainment companies - has considerably over-stepped its bounds in these kinds of issues, and I think opponents have a very legitimate reason to be concerned that granting the government further powers will lead to further problems for people who are not violating the law and will not have the power to fight back and prove it.

Ian Uniacke
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I think that SOPA is less about stopping piracy and more about ensuring the position of the encumbant music, film and games industry markets. So depending on your outlook than I DO classify this as "pure evil" (to use your term).

Jonathan Murphy
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Lengthy posts. Blah blah blah. This law is insane. Politicians are stupid. There I didn't need 5 paragraphs!

Harlan Sumgui
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most useless post award goes to...

Paul Szczepanek
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Doesn't really affect us Europeans yet but I'm sure the UK will catch up soon enough. I say bring it on. Maybe it'll help projects like mesh networking and p2p DNS finally hit critical mass.