Source: Online protest threatens piracy bill
January 17th, 2012
07:25 PM ET
11 years ago

Source: Online protest threatens piracy bill

Washington (CNN) - The growing Internet protest–including a planned blackout by some websites Wednesday– against an online anti-piracy bill moving through Congress is "daunting," a Senate Democratic aide said Tuesday.

The aide said the protest may be powerful enough to keep senators from voting to even take up the bill that until recently commanded rare bipartisan support.

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"Before it looked like it would pass with 80 votes, and now [the online protest] looks like something that will suck the votes away," the aide said. "We're at a tipping point. It will either become a huge issue or die down a bit and that will determine the future of this."

The aide said it was premature to say exactly how it will play out but acknowledged that because of protest from Internet mainstays like Google and Wikipedia "the merits of the bill are getting lost" and "sand is shifting pretty quickly" against it.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, is weighing changes to the bill to address concerns in the online community. In particular, he is considering dropping a provision that would impose new requirements on Internet service providers.

Senate Democratic leaders scheduled the bill as the first order of business when the Senate returns to work next week. They considered it one key part of their overall job creation agenda.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was open to changes to satisfy critics.

In a letter last week to GOP senators concerned about the bill, Reid acknowledged the bill "is not perfect" but said it would "protect American ingenuity and commerce" and is "too important to delay."

"It's tough to believe that after another week of this we're going to be able to get cloture [the 60 votes needed to take up the bill], so that would settle it for the immediate term," the Senate Democratic aide said.

Texas Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, who is leading the effort to move a bill in the House, criticized efforts by the bill's opponents to mount the blackout on Wednesday.

"This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts," Smith said in written statement Tuesday.

Smith has already agreed to make changes to his legislation in response to concerns by opponents. His statement stressed that the House bill "only targets foreign websites that are primarily dedicated to illegal activity. It does not grant the Justice Department the authority to seek a court order to shut down any website operated in the U.S."

California Rep. Darrell Issa, who is pushing his own legislation as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, cancelled a hearing scheduled Wednesday on the problems that Google and others have with the bill.

But in a statement Friday, Issa said, "Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote."

Despite signals from House GOP leaders that the bill won't be scheduled for a vote until some of the controversial provisions are worked out, Smith announced that his committee plans to consider the bill early next month.

Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, is among the industry supporters of the legislation.

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Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Republicans
soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Congress is getting paid 94 million dollars to pass this bill. Isn't it amazing how a budget proposal can't reach bipartisan support but this flawed legislation can, purely because of lobbying dollars coming from the entertainment industry?

    We need to stop privacy, but this is the wrong answer. We all need to stand up against SOPA and PIPA. These bills will short-circuit future American innovation from the tech sector and dismantle the foundations (both physical and metaphorical) of the internet – if websites don't have expensive filtering methods (that don't exist), they will be sued by the entertainment industry.

    Startups can't accept that.

    Worst of all, this legislation doesn't stop piracy at all. A pirate can easily enter the IP address of a website instead of its domain name to access the site, and pirates have already responded to this bill by saying that they can easily get around it!

    Vote NO on SOPA and PIPA. Congress, please do not vote on something you know NOTHING about. Please do not kill one of the only shining lights in our dismal economy – the tech sector!

    January 18, 2012 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  2. Peter Allen

    Screw the entertainment industry...Let them eat cake

    January 18, 2012 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  3. Justin

    "[...]It does not grant the Justice Department the authority to seek a court order to shut down any website operated in the U.S."

    When will the Justice Department seek that authority, though? Is this bill just a first step toward government censorship? In all seriousness, websites that commit acts of piracy are already able to be shut down. It goes along with the terms of service from a web host and domain registrar–they shut people down for illegal activities. This issue should be filtered through the ISP's, not the US government.

    January 18, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  4. Alex

    This bIll is disgusting

    January 18, 2012 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  5. HandsOffMyInternet

    Isn't it amazing how easily evil is stopped when good people do something?

    This bill isn't just about the internet, it's a good indicator of how much control business interests have in the congress.

    January 18, 2012 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  6. Scott

    Man, scary to think this is how they react. They see the support starting to shift and start to act as if this is time sensitive. They want to force through something awful before too many people become aware of it.

    "This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts," Smith said in written statement Tuesday. <-- they're genuinely concerned about the ramifications of giving the government that kind of control over an international entity.

    January 18, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  7. Randall

    "Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, is among the industry supporters of the legislation." – Yes, we already knew that. It's pretty obvious when you haven't given any attention to this horrible bill for months now.

    January 18, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  8. BlackDynamite

    I've already tweeted 2 Senators and 1 Representative.
    Let your "government representatives" know how you feel

    January 18, 2012 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  9. A viewer

    Absolute SHAME upon Time Warner for supporting this bill which will do nothing but harm their business model.

    January 18, 2012 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  10. Winston Galt

    So, let me see – this legislation is vitally important to pass and yet would target only foreign websites.

    In other words, it would target websites that the US would have absolutely no jurisdiction over and therefore no ability to enforce.

    So, exactly why are we spending any time whatsoever in passing it then?

    The answer is that if you actually believe that cr@p then you deserve to lose your personal liberties.

    January 18, 2012 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  11. RV

    I take satisfaction in the rage of the politicians that support this bill and the media-owning corporate swines that buy them.

    January 18, 2012 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  12. Rick

    People need to pay close attention to this matter; any politician that supports this, despite the public's very vocal stance against it, needs to never hold office again. Politicians who are decrying these blackouts as a "publicity stunt" have no idea what they're talking about, or care only about the support of the companies who want to see this passed so they can have a greater control over what consumers see online.

    January 18, 2012 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  13. Stuart

    Many websites chose not to take part in the internet strike because they were led to believe SOPA was dead. Lies–always lies from the government. Our group has taken 6 domains dark in protest, with the hope that people will be awakened to the situation. This strike has proven two things: never trust the words from any politician and the internet can spread facts faster than the government can create lies. As long as the internet remains mostly free, "we the people" have a chance....

    January 18, 2012 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  14. Reed

    " "This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts," Smith said in written statement Tuesday. "

    Fear is right, Mr. Congressman. The 'publicity stunt' isn't what makes me fearful, it is the bill itself. Congress is unable to manage a debt deal, but when it comes to squandering and crushing freedom of speech on the Internet, it seems to be able to run on all cylinders.

    Online piracy needs to be stopped, but it needs to be stopped in a less draconian way.

    January 18, 2012 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  15. forrest

    The only people who will benefit from this are big government socialists, Hollywood tycoons and their bought politicians. Kill these bills and go after the sponsors scorched earth style, as this is an affront to our freedoms.

    January 18, 2012 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
  16. Chris

    Surprisingly open article for a website that supports SOPA. Those who do support it don't seem to understand the true ramifications of such a bill, and that this is the first, albeit timid, step onto a very slippery, dangerous slope. Please contact your local representatives and demand their opposition to both of these bills.

    January 18, 2012 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  17. Lipstick

    Can't these people in Washington just leave things alone. Do they have to have their fingers into everything? When they get involved in the internet they will ruin it for everyone.

    January 18, 2012 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  18. Randy Johnson

    I see CNN's parent company Time Warner is supporting SOPA – so whats up CNN and more importantly – how did this bill get weasled into an actual Senate Vote. Scandal fatigue or what????

    January 18, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  19. Hooligan

    "This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts,"

    does he know what a "publicity stunt" even is?

    Here, a indention (from wikipedia no less)
    "A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public's attention to the event's organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can be professionally organized or set up by amateurs.[3] Such events are frequently utilized by advertisers, celebrities, athletes, and politicians."

    by that definition anything he says as a representative could too be considered a "publicity stunt"

    just a pot calling a kettle black, and of course because it's HIS bill being openly questioned it's "a publicity stunt" as opposed to informing the masses.

    January 18, 2012 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  20. Squincher

    This is shaping up to be an epic battle between old media (TV, Movies, Print) who support the SOPA and PIPA Bills vs. New Media (the Internet). It's the first battle in this war between the two.

    I'm worried old media will win. They have the support of all of these old, fuddy duddy Senators & Congressman who probably don't even know how to use email (they have large staffs to do it for them.

    But hey, if Old Media does win, they will have lost the war down the line in the future.

    January 18, 2012 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  21. Jerry Freedman

    There is a large technical side to this issue and I seriously doubt that any member of congress has any real understanding. Didn't a senator a few years ago describe the internet as a bunch of tubes...

    January 18, 2012 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  22. artvet2

    Don't make this any harder than it is – if we allow the government to force control of sites, we loose the freedom and independence that thus far has flourished on the internet and has provoked, in large part, many of the changes in the way governments and international companies do business around the world. HANDS OFF – you folks in DC have too many times demonstrated your inability to stay fair, transparent, and efficient!

    January 18, 2012 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  23. Carl Vincent

    Coming from the Philippines, I always saw America as a beacon of freedom,
    a melting pot of cultures that gives birth to innovation and ideals.
    Then, the SOPA and PIPA came. An obviously illegal law that threatens not just freedom of speech for Americans but for the entire World. Hidden by its legislators and supporters such as Holliwood under the guise of protecting copyright and securing American jobs.
    If I wasn't so worried about protecting one of our basic Human rights, I would've found their defense laughable at best.
    They are not protecting Americans from losing their jobs; They are protecting their obscenely ludicrous profits by censoring their competitors.
    The world is run by a free market. Your strategy is more common in places like Iran and Siria, but even those countries woke up from their life long oppression and finally embraced Democracy.
    I must also point out how much a hypocrite Holliwood really is.
    They denounce piracy and stealing of ideas when, in retrospect, they are guilty of the very sins they loathe.
    Authors, many from foreign countries, have long demanded for justice and compensation as their books, their very own intellectual property, is massacred and butchered beyond recognition and shown in theaters under a different name.

    I still believe in Democracy. I still believe in the freedom of free speech. I do not believe America has anything to benefirt from becoming a Fascist country.

    January 18, 2012 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  24. David

    Many of us are overlooking the blatant violation of our Constitutional right to freedom of press and expression. By allowing the government to commandeer the Internet they are putting it in the same boat as countless once successful but now are floundering due to "government oversight". At the crux of this debate is the entertainment lobbying groups that are distraught that have had to adapt to a 21 century world where the digital media reigns over celluloid and compact disc. Multimedia has gone viral and can no longer be confined to the borders of Blockbuster Video and F.Y.I. The only reason the government is taking an interested in this is because lobbyist are handing politicians suitcases full of cash to manipulate the law for their own self-serving interests. Not to sound to Orwellian, but if we allow are basic right of freedom of speech and expression to be trampled on it's only going to be the beginning...

    January 18, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  25. TalG

    And this is why Congress doesn't understand the reason behind the protests. The bills have nothing to do with protecting people's rights... and everything to do with protecting corporations (including TIme-Warner, the parent company of CNN) and their profits. Instead of evolving and learning how to use the Internet, both Congress and corporations want to stay in the horse-and-buggy whip business, erecting a "Great Firewall of the US" and removing all rights from the consumers.

    There was a reason that things like copyright and patents had a specific limit of time... but now it has been ripped to shreds in the name of the almighty dollar and corporate demands to keep making money long after the creator is dead.

    January 18, 2012 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
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