SOPA Shelved, PIPA on Its Last Leg, and the Internet Saved?

by Matthew L. Schafer

Opponents of the industry supported piracy bills SOPA and PIPA celebrated as word came from Washington that legislators have shelved SOPA.  Over the weekend the Obama administration, responding to a petition, suggested that it would not support the current legislation.

“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,” Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget, said.

Espinel added that “[Congress] must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet.”

SOPA and PIPA, which were proposed last year, have been lightening rods for controversy, even prompting an “American Censorship Day” in November.  Opponents to the bills (myself included) have argued that “SOPA [and PIPA] . . . do not protect creativity, foster inovation, promote entrepreneurship, or enstill free speech values.”

Specifically, opponents expressed concerns with the DNS blocking requirements of the bill, the legal responsibilities the bills would put on third party intermediaries like search engines, the private enforcement powers granted to corporations, and the effects the bills would have on free speech.

“While I remain concerned about . . . the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House,”  House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa [R-CA] said.  “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work . . . to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”

While many of SOPA and PIPA’s opponents are celebrating, the EFF, a public interest group and a strong opponent of the “blacklist bills,” as it calls them, cautioned that “the fight is still far from over.”  In a statement issued on Monday, EFF noted that “the Senate is still poised to bring PIPA to the floor next week, and we can expect SOPA proponents in the House to try to revive the legislation.”

Beyond public interest groups, Silicon companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have also fervently opposed the legislation.  Incumbent industry powerhouses like the Motion Picture Association of America and Viacom provided the majority of support for the bills, which also were supported by a slew of legislators.  Supporters of the bills  are arguing, as the legislation falls apart, that the industry stands to lose millions without the protection of the bills.

“As had been made clear throughout the legislative consideration of SOPA and the PROTECT-IP Act, neither of these bills implicate free expression but focus solely on illegal conduct, which is not free speech,” the MPAA said in a statement over the weekend.

News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch said more brashly in response to the White House’s statement, “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.”

While incumbent industry leaders are disgruntled over the recent change in tides, it appears that for the time being SOPA and PIPA opponents can pat themselves on the back for, at the very least, staving off the legislation.

A pat on the back, however, does not mean that supporters will take the week off.  Reddit, which had planned a black out of its website in protest of the bills, is reportedly going forward with its planned black out despite the SOPA news.

Wikipedia will also join Reddit, posting a banner on its website on Monday that “[i]n less than 26 hours, the English Wikipedia will be blacked out globally to protest SOPA and PIPA.”

The EFF also recently outlined provisions that are likely to be reborn in future bills and that it alleges are vague, overbroad, and damaging to free speech: the Anti-Circumvention Provision, the “Vigilante” Provision, Corporate Right of Action, and Expanded Attorney General Powers.



About Matthew L. Schafer

Matthew L. Schafer graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Media Studies. He later attended Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication where he earned a Masters of Mass Communication and Georgetown University Law Center where he earned his J.D.
This entry was posted in First Amendment, Internet Policy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to SOPA Shelved, PIPA on Its Last Leg, and the Internet Saved?

  1. Pingback: Resisting Censorship: SOPA, PIPA, and How Congress Started Caring More About Corporate Interests than Free Speech | Lippmann Would Roll

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