Congress Puts PIPA, SOPA On Hold After Internet User Uprising

BY Ali Sternburg
January 20, 2012

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 own website.

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 101 opponents.

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.
  • The 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.

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