Some citizens, Congress members, and organizations have been
fully aware of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the
PROTECT IP Act (PIPA)
and the threats they pose for months now.
After all, PIPA was introduced on May 12, 2011, and SOPA was
introduced on October 26, 2011. While there were 1000
companies, organizations, and individuals who had expressed opposition
before Wednesday, most average Americans—and some Congressmen—were not aware of
these bills and the impact they would have on daily life and access to the
Internet until January 18, 2012, when there was a massive blackout by major
websites such as Wikipedia, reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, and many, many more
listedhere—not to mention CCIA’s
This blackout generated record calls and online petitions asking Congress not to
support SOPA or PIPA. According to the “SOPA Opera” tracker on ProPublica,
on January 18, 2012, there were 80 Congressmen supporting and 31 Congressmen
opposing these bills, while on January 19, 2012, there were 65 supporters and
Today, January 20, 2012, the Senate put out a statement from
Majority Leader Harry Reid saying they would postpone the PIPA vote scheduled
for January 24, 2012, and the House put out a statement from
Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith saying they would postpone consideration of SOPA
“until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Despite all of this
growing momentum, the bills are not dead yet—Senator Reid concluded his
statement saying he is “optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming
weeks”—but this is significant progress.
These bills would cause lots of problems. They would chill
speech, deter innovation, export censorship, harm Internet security, and many
other issues, and still wouldn’t even be effective in stopping piracy;
plus, there’s uncertainty of whether “piracy” is even a problem that needs to
be remedied, due to the lack of unbiased data.
These bills may only be intended to impact international “rogue”
websites, but they would
impact U.S. sites. The OPEN Act
is a proposed alternative to these bills that seeks to preserve the open
Internet that is so valuable.
Other recent encouraging activity by the government earlier
this week, in case you missed it:
- Rep. Smith removed the
most controversial provision from SOPA, DNS blocking, although it’s still a
very flawed bill.
Sen. Leahy put out a statement saying
that before PIPA goes to the floor, he plans to propose that the positive and
negative effects of the DNS provision be studied before implemented.
White House responded to
the “We The People” epetition that had asked the President to veto SOPA and
PIPA with a memo by three top Obama Administration officials. While they
didn’t directly address the veto requested by petitioners, the White House did
come out strongly against the DNS provisions in the bills.
- Rep. Issa postponed his
planned hearing with
seven key cyber-security and technology experts, because he was encouraged that
SOPA was not going to move to the floor yet.
While incongruence between technology and intellectual
property is nothing
new, this is a really unique protest movement to be experiencing, and one
that may impact IP and Internet legislation for years to come.