SOPA Bill “not ready for prime time”: A Recap of Day One

The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee debated what could be the first draft of the highly controversial "Stop Online Piracy Act" (or, SOPA) to hit the House floor today.

Should SOPA pass without revision, it would make online streaming of copyright material without permission – for instance creating a Let's Play video, and uploading it to Youtube, a felony offense, punishable by a five year jail sentence.

“This bill is not ready for prime time,” Representative Darrell Issa of California, said today. “First of all, we haven't heard from the scientists. We haven't done our due diligence.”

Others on the committee echoed Issa's concerns. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah stressed a need for the committee to “bring in the nerds,” apparently referencing the Committee's lack of testimony from technical experts.

“I think it would be a serious mistake to simply dismiss this to – in a headlong rush – get a bill adopted that's not ready,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren of California.

SOPA has undergone a draft period of two months. Opponents of the bill have suggested that that period of time is much too short for a bill as potentially far-reaching as this one. Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas suggested that bill needed a “period of thoughtfulness,” around six to ten years long, before it was ready to be passed into law.

Even the most conservative estimates assume that SOPA won't make it out of committee hearings until after Congress adjourns for Christmas.

Other concerns were that the bill was too broad in purpose – that it would lead to an unnecessary “balkanization,” or compartmentalization of the internet. Also that it would unfairly punish large content providers like YouTube, Google, and Facebook, and stymie the growth of small and upstart companies that use the internet as a major source of revenue.

“Many of the founders of the internet, itself, do not support this bill,” said Representative Jared Polis of Colorado.

Opponents of the bill include several prominent internet investors and inventors. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a letter sent to Congress signed by 83 of them.

Proponents of SOPA include Nintendo, News Corp., Comcast, and Disney, among others.