It’s “Internet 1, Congress 0“: In the wake of widespread online protest, the House and the Senate have stopped both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in their tracks. Just this Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he has canceled next week’s Senate vote on PIPA, which is now indeed opposed by many of its co-sponsors. Shortly afterwards, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said that SOPA will not be taken up as planned and that legislators must “wait until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
Reid indeed acknowledged that ”recent events” — the blackout on Wikipedia and other sites including Reddit and the other protests involving an estimated 115,000 websites this past Wednesday — had played a role in his decision to postpone the vote.
PIPA sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, agreed to the change of course only “reluctantly,” painting a dire picture of how Chinese and Russian internet thieves “are smugly watching how the United States Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy.” Senators have caved into pressure, Leahy charged, and will one day rue their making a “knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem.”
The Tech Community and Hollywood
There is no question online piracy is a problem. Tech companies including Google and Facebook had strongly objected to SOPA and PIPA, which granted the US Department of Justice the power to go after foreign websites offering illegal copies of movies, music and other content for free. Under these proposed laws, search engines would have had to eliminate links to such sites, while ad networks and companies that process payments would have been forbidden from doing business with them. Tech companies have been arguing that, as currently written, both bills could curtail free speech and innovation on the internet by placing an “unreasonable burden on websites to police user-generated content,” with the result that perfectly legitimate websites could — as Wikipedia did on Wednesday — go dark. Last Saturday, the Obama administration expressed its concerns about how SOPA and PIPA could “[disrupt] the underlying architecture of the Internet.”
Hollywood, the music recording industry, book publishers and the United States Chamber of Commerce have all backed SOPA and PIPA, as a means to stop the “rampant piracy of American cultural wares” by websites overseas.
Photo by Ben Werdmuller von Elgg
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