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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.

Leahy has not yet released the language of his proposed amendment to PIPA.

So at this point, it's not clear what the version of PIPA to be voted on in the Senate will look like.

On Wednesday, Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and John Cornyn of Texas, both of whom were original co-sponsors of PIPA, called on Reid to postpone the vote on PIPA in favor of more debate. Rubio said he planned to withdraw his sponsorship of the bill.

What's happening with SOPA?

In the House of Representatives, SOPA may be on hold for the moment. Issa said Saturday that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has assured him that SOPA won't move forward in the House until consensus is reached. Cantor has not made that promise publicly.

Meanwhile, Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and lead sponsor of SOPA, said he will continue a markup session -- to amend and debate SOPA -- in the House Judiciary Committee in February. Smith is chairman of the committee.

Like Leahy, Smith has promised to remove the ISP and DNS blocking provision in SOPA, but he also has not released the new language.

This week, Representatives Ben Quayle, an Arizona Republican, and Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, said they were withdrawing as sponsors of SOPA.

The White House response

On Saturday, three officials in President Barack Obama's administration issued a statement that seemed to oppose PIPA and SOPA. The statement called on both sides in the debate to work on a compromise to protect U.S. copyright holders.

The White House statement said the administration would not support legislation that would inhibit innovation or cause cybersecurity problems, two of the most repeated criticisms of PIPA and SOPA.

But the White House statement never mentioned SOPA or PIPA by name and didn't explicitly say the Obama administration opposed the bills or would veto them. Supporters of the bills said PIPA and SOPA meet the conditions articulated by the White House.

What's in the bills

SOPA and PIPA differ in some ways, but both bills would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders requiring U.S. online advertising networks and payment processors to stop doing business with foreign websites accused of infringing U.S. copyright. The DOJ could also seek court orders requiring search engines, and possible other sites, to stop linking to the accused websites.

The bills would apply to foreign sites trafficking in pirated music and movies, but also to sites selling counterfeit goods, including handbags, cigarettes, medicine and clothing.

The bills would allow U.S. copyright holders to seek court orders targeting ad networks and payment processors.

The bills would also give legal immunity to Internet service providers, domain-name registrars, search engines, payment processors and online ad networks that voluntarily cut off service to accused websites.


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