Two bills making their way through the House and Senate, intending to clamp down on Internet piracy, have run into a brick wall. PIPA (PROTECT Intellectual Property Act) is a bill in the Senate and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is in the House. Both originally intended to require Internet service providers, search engines, and online financial services to block Web sites that are suspected of distributing copyrighted material. Some feel that the bills represented the first major step towards government censorship of the Web.
Internet companies including Google, Microsoft, Wikipedia, Facebook, and many others have spoken out against the legislation, which is being driven by lobbyists from the Motion Picture Association, Recording Industry Association of America, and other IP owners. The tech companies fear that the legislation would alter the way that the Internet works, put Internet companies out of business, infringe on Internet freedom, and stifle innovation. Companies and legislators backing the bills believe that something must be done to reduce online piracy, which they say is responsible for eating away at media companies’ profits.
Last weekend, President Obama sided with the tech companies saying that the legislation should be shelved until it can address concerns over negative impact on the Internet. Over the course of the week many businesses, organizations, and individuals climbed on the anti-SOPA band wagon, which culminated in a Web blackout on Wednesday. Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress, and hundreds of smaller sites went black Wednesday, replacing their Websites with anti-SOPA rhetoric. By Thursday morning, the pressure became too much and the sponsors of the bills announced a surrender of sorts. With elections around the corner, bill supporters feared that this hot-potato item might ruin their chances for re-election. Once elections are over, it is likely that the two bills return in one form or another.
- Congress puts brakes on anti-piracy bills [Reuters]
- SOPA on the Ropes as White House Voices Doubts [ECommerce Times]
- A Political Coming of Age for the Tech Industry [NYTimes]
- Anti-Piracy Bills Dropped in House and Senate [NewsFactor]
- Sopa Controversy [Computerworld]
- U.S. lawmakers flip their positions on SOPA, PIPA [Computerworld]