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PIPA Sponsor Will Cut Domain Name Blocking Provision From Measure

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, January 12 2012

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont) said on Thursday that he will cut a controversial domain name blocking provision from an online intellectual property protection bill he is sponsoring in response to concerns expressed by the public, but especially from his constituents.

The provision of the Protecting Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2001 would have enabled the Justice Department to obtain a court order to force Internet Service Providers to block access to domains of web sites that Justice had determined were "dedicated" to infringement.

Dozens of the internet's founding engineers have said that the provision would end up messing up the architecture of the global network, and rights groups decried the provision as being reminiscent of the censorship schemes of undemocratic countries.

In the statement that he issued Thursday Leahy said that he'll substitute the provision as it currently is with a section in the manager's amendment that will commission a study of the pros and cons of blocking access. The senate floor is scheduled to move the legislation January 24.

Leahy made the concession somewhat grudgingly, mentioning that the provision had been OKed by the cable companies:

I remain confident that the ISPs – including the cable industry, which is the largest association of ISPs – would not support the legislation if its enactment created the problems that opponents of this provision suggest. Nonetheless, this is in fact a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it.

The move appears to be a significant, incremental win for the grassroots activists. FightForTheFuture.org, the online activism arm of the Center for Rights in Worcester, Mass., and Public Knowledge had organized a campaign for call-ins and and in-person meetings between constituents and congressmen at their town halls before congress convenes again on January 23th.

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