SOPA/PIPA Off the Table, for Now

Posted: Jan 20, 2012 4:23 PM

The internet protests from several major websites this past week apparently worked to great effect -- the general malcontent with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) was heard loud and clear in Washington. Not only did Republicans back off in droves, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also called off the cloture vote on PIPA he had scheduled for Tuesday.

Reid tried to put on a brave face, saying in a statement that he was optimistic that progress could be made in the coming weeks. But there's no mistaking what happened. Many of the Senate bill’s co-sponsors have since come out against it, leaving Reid a no-win choice: Go forward with the cloture vote he'd planned for Tuesday and lose, or send the bill off into back-burner purgatory.

PIPA sponsor Patrick Leahy got the message — and he wasn’t happy about it.

In a steaming response to Reid's announcement, the Vermont Democrat said Internet thieves in China and Russia "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.” ...

The double-barrel decisions to punt on the bill capped an extraordinary week of public pressure — and an extraordinary reversal of fortunes for Hollywood, whose lobbyists seemed to think they were on cruise control to passage of bills aimed at protecting their content from online thieves.

Over the weekend, the White House expressed concerns about the legislation. Over the next several days, co-sponsor after co-sponsor jumped ship. And Thursday night, the four remaining GOP presidential candidates all said they’d oppose the bills as currently drafted.

The popular resentment here really was, I felt, quite extraordinary -- I have several internet/tech-savvy acquaintances who don't normally pride themselves on their political sentience, but were vehemently opposed to these bills. The bills are now mostly dead (although the entertainment industry will likely keep applying the pressure), but this does leave us with a great discussion-starter on the proper way to approach the protection of intellectual property rights in the future.