Wednesday’s massive Internet protest against two controversial anti-piracy bills appeared to have some effect, as congressional leaders agreed to put off a vote on the legislation. However, it’s obvious that the fight isn’t over for opponents who contend the bills are so broadly written that they could lead to unchecked online censorship.
Although lawmakers bowed to the extraordinary pressure of Wednesday’s protest — in which many popular websites “went dark” in protest over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate twin, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) — it’s clear they aren’t happy about it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Friday that he would delay the upcoming vote on PIPA.
“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act,” Reid says.
He made clear that he expects the controversy to be resolved, however, and that the bill would eventually move forward.
“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved,” Reid adds. “Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.
“I admire the work that [Senate Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Patrick] Leahy has put into this bill,” Reid says. “I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”
Leahy, himself, took a more-defiant tone regarding the news of the vote delay, saying congressional opponents of PIPA were guilty of “a knee-jerk reaction.”
“I understand and respect Majority Leader Reid’s decision to seek consent to vitiate cloture on the motion to proceed to the PROTECT IP Act,” the Vermont Democrat says. “But the day will come when the Senators who forced this move will look back and realize they made a knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem. Somewhere in China today, in Russia today, and in many other countries that do not respect American intellectual property, criminals who do nothing but peddle in counterfeit products and stolen American content 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.”
Leahy’s Republican House counterpart, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, was somewhat more conciliatory in announcing a delay in a vote on SOPA, saying that “I take seriously” the concerns of critics who worry that the Domain Name System (DNS) blocking provisions of SOPA, in particular, could allow the federal government unchecked authority to shut down entire websites.
“The Committee will continue work with both copyright owners and Internet companies to develop proposals that combat online piracy and protect America’s intellectual property,” Smith says. “We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how best to address this widespread problem. The Committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.