Rep. Lamar Smith Says He Will Remove Controversial SOPA Item

In a late Friday press release, the Congressman leading the much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) said he would remove a key part of the bill until further study takes place.

Lamar Smith (R-Tx) said he intends to remove the part of the bill that calls on Internet Service Provider to block access to foreign websites. Critics had said the proposed rule would tamper with the architecture of the internet and that it mimicked the censoring practices of China and Iran.

The move came after Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), in an apparent victory for SOPA critics, earlier in the day stated he would support removing the Domain Name System provisions from a Senate version of the bill. Here is part of Smith’s release:

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today said he plans to remove a provision in the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) that requires Internet Service Providers to block access to certain foreign websites.

Chairman Smith: “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act 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.

The SOPA soap opera is gearing up again after opponents used procedural maneuvers to fight the bill to a stand still in the House Judiciary Committee in December.

SOPA opponents, who include major technology companies and civil liberties advocates, notched another victory earlier this week when they pulled influential conservative House member Paul Ryan (R-WI) to their side. The campaign also gained momentum when both right and left wing blogs began to oppose SOPA, and after rumors began to appear that companies like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Facebook would shut down their websites in protest.

This is a second reversal of sorts this week for Congressman Smith. Yesterday, SOPA opponents produced evidence that he had used an unauthorized (or pirated) photo on his own campaign site.

See this post by Dyn for a helpful explanation of how the domain name system works and proposed blocking measures would work.

Vocal SOPA critics like TechDirt’s Mike Masnick aren’t convinced Senator Leahy’s pledge to pull the DNS provisions is sincere.