Immediately following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to postpone a full vote on the “PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA), which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chief sponsor of the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA), has announced that he will delay further consideration of the contentious anti-piracy bill in the House “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Earlier this week, Smith said that he would resume markup hearings on SOPA by the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is chairman, in February.
The interruption of both bills follows Wednesday’s mass online blackout held in protest of the companion anti-piracy bills.
“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” said Smith in a statement. “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.”
This statement stands in stark contrast to Smith’s earlier remarks about the opposition to SOPA and PIPA, in which brushed off their warnings that the bills could put and end to the free and open Internet as we know it as illegitimate, and without merit.
“The problem of online piracy is too big to ignore,” Smith added. “American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports. The theft of America’s intellectual property costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while American innovators and job creators are under attack.”
“The online theft of American intellectual property is no different than the theft of products from a store. It is illegal and the law should be enforced both in the store and online,” he said.
Prior to Wednesday’s blackout, which saw more than 75,000 websites “go black” in protest, SOPA and PIPA enjoyed the support of 80 members of Congress, while just 31 members stood in opposition to these bills. By Thursday, the balance of power shifted dramatically, with only 63 members in both houses of Congress in support of SOPA/PIPA, and 122 opposed, according to ProPublica.
While the delay of SOPA and PIPA is testament to the power of the opposition movement to sway Congress, it is also obvious that the fight is far from over. Both Sen. Reid and Rep. Smith have vowed to continue the fight against piracy, and could revive these bills — or others like them — at any time.