Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indefinitely postponed the vote on PROTECT IP Act (PIPA):
In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the Protect IP Act. There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved.
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 Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. 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.
This past Wednesday a large number of sites, including this one, blacked out, changed their logos, or otherwise modified their sites to help support the cause to stop SOPA and PIPA. Shortly thereafter, many lawmakers fled from their support of the bill, including Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jon Cornyn (R-TX), and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) . Others, like Ben Cardin (D-MD), simply called for the bill to be amended. Like Reid, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) also promised to postpone SOPA:
I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.
As we explained in previous articles, SOPA and PIPA give a wide range of tools that undermine the basic principles the protect free speech on the internet and that prevent other forms of censorship online. In addition, the bills make it possible to prosecute without due process. Finally, SOPA in particular had a clause specifically dedicated to the prosecution of those uploading videos of or streaming copyrighted content. This affects gamers and the gaming industry’s press, alike.
These actions in Congress and otherwise have prompted a response from Chris Dodd, President of the Motion Picture Association of America. In an interview with Fox News, he was remarkably coarse and said the following:
Candidly, those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.
I would caution people don’t make the assumption that because the quote ‘Hollywood community’ has been historically supportive of Democrats, which they have, don’t make the false assumptions this year that because we did it in years past, we will do it this year. These issues before us – this is the only issue that goes right to the heart of this industry.
At the same time, Reuters noted that he also said the following in a statement:
With today’s announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property
Previously, PIPA was set to be voted on January 24th. Likewise, Smith also planned to put SOPA up for vote again in February. Reid refused to shelve PIPA after the Obama administration made a statement saying they did not support them in their current forms, instead opting to collaborate privately with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Kyl (R-AZ) to amend it. All those included in this group were supporters of the bill, so it came as a surprise when Reid finally decided to shelve it. Finally, it is important to once again note that the bill are simply “postponed indefinitely” and not “dead”.
Analysis: It is somewhat of a relief that now both PIPA and SOPA have been shelved for the time being. However, these bills should not be allowed to pass in any form. Entirely new bills would need to be written for there to be acceptable anti-piracy legislature on the floor. These bills are fundamentally flawed from their conception: they are both un-American and unconstitutional. I’ve repeated this time and time again, but these bills seek to give the US power over that which it does not have rightful claim to.
I find it amusing to hear Chris Dodd admit that congress is at the beck and call of the entertainment industry, but it does sound like he is also conceding that the tech industry needs to be involved in the process if it involves the internet. The worst part about this entire charade is that high-ranking tech experts all agreed that these pieces of rotten legislature were a danger to free speech and internet security. They would deal damaging blows to DNSSEC, take down sites for the most trivial offenses, and lay the infrastructure for future censorship of the web. As a concept that has aided in the overthrowing of tyrants, such a move further oppresses the ruled by placing power of communication in the hands of the rulers.
However, as we’ve seen with Megaupload, this legislature is not needed to prosecute copyright infringers. The recent events involving that site should make people question the purpose of SOPA and PIPA, as it is clear they were not necessary to invoke a just decision. Although Megaupload was used for more than just copyright infringement, it is now clear that was a primary use for it.
In conclusion, until these bills are dead, we can’t relax. It would be unwise to let up now.