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SOPA, PIPA Shelved Following Online Protests

January 21, 2012

Following widespread protests and blackouts of multiple popular websites, Congress on Friday indefinitely postponed legislation intended to combat the online piracy of movies, music and other copyrighted content.

In what Associated Press (AP) writer Jim Abrams called “a clear victory for Silicon Valley over Hollywood,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to Twitter to announce that a procedural vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which had reportedly been scheduled for next week, was being delayed “in light of recent events.”

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the author of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Texas Republican Lamar Smith, released a statement in which he called off plans to create a formal draft of the bill next month, according to Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times.

Smith said that the House would “postpone consideration” of their version of the anti-piracy legislation “until there is wider agreement on a solution,” according to a Friday article by CNNMoney’s Julianne Pepitone. He added that he had “heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns“¦ It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves.”

According to Pepitone, “several lawmakers” dropped their support for SOPA and PIPA “in the wake of widespread online and offline protests against them” Wednesday.

Those protests included blackouts of popular websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit, a petition opposing the proposed bills that was spearheaded by Google and drew more than seven million signatures, and offline protests held in places such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

At least a half-dozen Senators who had originally co-sponsored PIPA withdrew their support following Wednesday’s protests, Abrams reported. According to the AP reporter, it was “unlikely” that Reid would have been able to secure the 60 votes required to bring the legislation to the Senate floor.

“The chief Senate sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., cited estimates that copyright piracy costs the American economy more than $50 billion annually and that global sales of counterfeit goods via the Internet reached $135 billion in 2010,” Abrams said.

“He and Smith insist that their bills target only foreign criminals and that there is nothing in them to require websites, Internet service providers, search engines or others to monitor their networks,” the AP reporter added. “That didn’t satisfy critics who said the legislation could force Internet companies to pre-screen user comments or videos, burden new and smaller websites with huge litigation costs and impede new investments.”

As previously reported on RedOrbit.com, an estimated 2.4 million SOPA-related tweets were sent out between 12 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time on January 18, according to statistics provided by Twitter. The social networking website also noted that the top five most frequently used terms for the day were “SOPA,” “Stop SOPA,” “PIPA,” “Tell Congress” and “#factswithoutwikipedia.”

In response to Reid’s decision to shelve the bill, Leahy released a statement in which he said, “More time will pass with jobs lost and economies hurt by foreign criminals who are stealing American intellectual property and selling it back to American consumers.”

“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,” he added, according to Weisman. “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.”

Conversely, Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeff Chester told Abrams that Google, Wikipedia, and the other online companies who protested SOPA and PIPA “have delivered a powerful blow to the Hollywood lobby“¦ It’s been framed as an Internet freedom issue, but at the end of the day it will be decided on the narrow interests of the old and new media companies.”

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Source: RedOrbit Staff & Wire Reports