PIPA and SOPA bills on hold
By Colin Mann

The sponsors of both the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act anti-piracy measures have halted progress on their respective bills through the US legislature.

Lamar Smith, who sponsored SOPA, said that he had “heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy.” Smith said he intended to continue working with both the entertainment industry and Internet stakeholders to find a way to stop online piracy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also postponed Tuesday’s scheduled vote on PIPA “in light of recent events,” he announced. Senator Patrick Leahy, the lead sponsor of PIPA, criticised the “knee-jerk” reaction of fellow senators to this week’s protests against the bill, and vowed to press forward with it. “The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously reported the PROTECT IP Act in May. Since then, I have worked with both Senators and stakeholders to identify concerns and find meaningful ways to address them. Only when the Senate considers this legislation can we do so. In the meantime, 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. I remain committed to addressing this problem; I hope other members of Congress won’t simply stand on hollow promises to find a way to eliminate online theft by foreign rogue websites, and will instead work with me to send a bill to the President’s desk this year.

“I understand and respect Majority Leader Reid’s decision to seek consent to vitiate cloture on the motion to proceed to the PROTECT IP Act. But the day will come when the Senators who forced this move will look back and realise they made a knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem. 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,” he claimed.

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved,” Reid said. “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,” he asserted. Reid said he was “optimistic” that the Senate could reach a compromise on PIPA in the coming weeks.

Congressman Darrell Issa, who has issued the OPEN Act, which he sees as addressing shortcomings in the the other measures, said that supporters of the Internet deserved credit for pressing advocates of SOPA and PIPA to back away from an effort to ram through controversial legislation. “Over the last two months, the intense popular effort to stop SOPA and PIPA has defeated an effort that once looked unstoppable but lacked a fundamental understanding of how Internet technologies work,” he suggested.

“Postponing the Senate vote on PIPA removes the imminent threat to the Internet, but it’s not over yet. Copyright infringement remains a serious problem and any solution must be targeted, effective, and consistent with how the Internet works,” he advised.

“It is clear that Congress needs to have more discussion and education about the workings of the Internet before it moves forward on sweeping legislation to address intellectual property theft on the Internet. I look forward to working with my colleagues and stakeholders to achieve a needed consensus about the way forward,” he declared.

Chris Dodd, MPAA Chairman and CEO, who had earlier suggested that a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, perhaps convened by the White House, could lead to a compromise, warned of the consequences of failing to act. and reiterated his call for co-operation. “We applaud those leaders in Washington who have chosen to stand with the millions of hard working Americans all across this nation whose livelihoods are threatened by foreign criminal websites designed to steal. As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals,” he said.

“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. The threat posed by these criminal operations has been widely acknowledged by even the most ardent critics. It is incumbent that they now sincerely work with all of us to achieve a meaningful solution to this critically important goal.”