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SOPA and PIPA: Web protests seem to be a turning point

Grant Gross | Jan. 19, 2012
Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act cheered Wednesday's Web blackout as a turning point in the debate over the two controversial copyright protection bills.

Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act cheered Wednesday's Web blackout as a turning point in the debate over the two controversial copyright protection bills.

Momentum in the debate over PIPA and SOPA seems to have shifted in favor of opponents in recent days, with several lawmakers voicing new opposition, and the White House appearing to distance itself from the two bills. The Web blackout Wednesday may be remembered as one of the first successful online uprisings in the U.S., but leaders in the U.S. Senate still planned to begin voting on PIPA next Tuesday.

Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, blacked out her own website to protest the bills. "History is being made by the more than 10,000 websites that have chosen to boycott SOPA by participating in today's blackout," she tweeted.

Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and opponent of the two bills, also praised participants in the Web blackout for educating the public about the issue. The Web blackout led to widespread media coverage of the opposition to SOPA and PIPA.

"This unprecedented effort has turned the tide against a backroom lobbying effort by interests that aren't used to being told 'no,'" Issa said in a statement. "I know suspending and changing access to sites was not necessarily an easy decision, but this is a responsible and transparent exercise of freedom of speech."

On Tuesday, Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, called the Web protest a "stunt" and a "gimmick."

Many of the concerns about PIPA are "flatly wrong," added Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill.

"No one disputes that copyright infringement and counterfeiting on the Internet must be addressed," Leahy said in a statement. "Hiding behind the black box of self-censorship does not resolve the problem that is plaguing American business and hurting American consumers. "

Protesting to protect foreign criminals "is irresponsible, will cost American jobs, and is just wrong," Leahy added.

Here's what to expect next after Wednesday's protests.

What's happening with PIPA?

Although there have been several changes in the landscape in recent days, it appears that the U.S. Senate will begin voting on PIPA next Tuesday, Jan. 24. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he plans to push forward with the bill, although senators may offer an amendment to appease some concerns.

Reid has not detailed what would be included in an amendment. Opponents of the bills say several parts of them remain problematic, and a major reworking would be needed for them to drop their opposition.

Leahy said last week that he may offer an amendment to PIPA taking out one of the most controversial provisions affecting Internet service providers and the Internet's domain-name system. That provision would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders requiring ISPs (Internet service providers) to block their subscribers from accessing the foreign websites accused by the DOJ of infringing copyright by selling unauthorized music and movies and physical goods such as medicine and handbags.

 

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