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The Return Of SOPA? Controversial Bill Sponsor Lamar Smith To Chair House Tech Committee

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The Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA, died an embarrassing death in the midst of popular outrage last winter.

Opponents of the controversial bill argued that it would put an unreasonable amount of power over the internet to both public and private bodies. Disparate internet forces from Google to Reddit to Wikipedia banded together in a show of protest, convinced Barack Obama to come out against the bill and ultimately convinced the Hill that pursuing SOPA and its equivalent, PIPA, would be political suicide.

It was a massive victory for advocates of an open internet, but it was by no means the end of the war. ACTA met a similar fate in Europe, but this year also saw a sizeable push against sites like The Pirate Bay and, notably, Megaupload, as well as copyright skirmishes in a range of other places. Now, however, something like SOPA could be coming back to the U.S. SOPA Sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith is the new Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and some on the internet are going to take issue with that last one.

“As Chairman of the Science Committee, I will be an advocate for America’s innovators by promoting legislation that encourages scientific discoveries, space exploration and the application of new technologies to expand our economy and create jobs for American workers,” Smith said in a statement.

Reddit, which became a hotbed of anti-SOPA activity, is collectively displeased with the appointment. Words are as harsh as they can be on Reddit, so here’s just a sample:

“The man is a insane, money chasing, Hollywood loving, swine of the earth.”

Smith gave no indication about what his plans were for future anti-piracy legislation.

“With regards to SOPA, we pulled the bill back in January,” Smith’s communications director told TPM in an email. “Any future legislation dealing with online piracy will be handled by the new Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte.”

Goodlatte was also a notable SOPA supporter, TPM points out.

Whatever happens , the internet will be on high alert, and any bill would have a long, hard uphill battle considering the popular opposition to SOPA last year. But I don’t think we’ve seen the end of anti-piracy legislation. It’s possible copyright holders, the legislature, and file-sharers alike can come to some kind of consensus, albeit highly unlikely. I’d expect a fight brewing again soon.

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