This is what democracy looks like: Following Wednesday’s mass online blackout protest against the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has canceled the January 24 vote on PIPA, first reported in a tweet from Think Progress. The vote postponement comes after 19 senators came out against PIPA, amidst the blackout, seven of whom are former co-sponsors of the bill.
SOPA, which resides in the House, and PIPA are anti-piracy bills aimed at curbing the illegal distribution of copyrighted material by websites that operate outside the US. Opponents say the ambiguous wording of these bills could wreak untold harm on the Internet by stifling legitimate free speech, harming online innovation and the technology startup investment environment, and potentially damage the underlying framework of the Internet by requiring Internet service providers to tamper with the domain name system (DNS).
While the cancellation of the PIPA vote stands as a major victory for the opposition, the bill is not entirely dead, as it will likely come up for a vote later in the year, potentially giving more time for supporters of this bill to sway more senators into their camp. SOPA is also still very much alive, as
markup hearings will resume next month. Update: Rep. Lamar Smith has postponed any further action on SOPA “until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
This story is still developing. We will have more to come as additional information becomes available.
UPDATE: The cancellation of the Jan. 24 PIPA vote has been confirmed by Sen. Reid himself, who posted this tweet to his Twitter account:
In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act #PIPA
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) January 20, 2012
Sen. Reid followed up this announcement with a tweet assuring voters that “legitimate issues” about “PIPA” can be resolved, and that online piracy costs “1000s of jobs yearly.” In other words, this fight is far from over, for both sides. But it is reassuring to see Sen. Reid admitting that there are legitimate issues with PIPA. This stands in stark contrast to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chief sponsor of SOPA, who has repeatedly dismissed the opposition to that bill as entirely illegitimate, the arguments against it nothing more than a misinformation campaign from the likes of Google and other SOPA/PIPA opponents.
UPDATE 2: Sen. Reid’s office has just released the following email to the press:
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement today on the Senate’s PROTECT I.P. Act:
In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. 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.
UPDATE 3: In an email to the press, Markham Erickson, Executive Director of the NetCoalition, a Washington lobbying group that represents a wide number of Internet and technology companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Amazon, eBay, IAC, Bloobmerg LP, Expedia, and Wikipedia, has come out in praise of Sen. Reid’s postponement of the PIPA vote:
“We commend Congress on recognizing the serious collateral damage this bill could inflict on the Internet. We remain committed to working with Congress to address the problem of piracy without compromising innovation and free expression,” Erickson said.