Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning postponed a vote on the PROTECT IP Act, a controversial anti-piracy bill that, along with the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, drew widespread online protest just two days earlier.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, quickly responded to the announcement by shelving SOPA “until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
The delays appear to be indefinite, with Reid suggesting that PIPA sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) redraft the proposed legislation, saying in a statement, “There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved.”
“I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet,” Reid (D-Nevada) continued. “We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”
In his statement, Smith added: “I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”
PIPA, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, was originally scheduled for a procedural vote on Tuesday in an effort to break a rarely used hold imposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). Introduced May 12, the Senate bill, like its House counterpart, would give the U.S. government and rights holders the ability to block access to “rogue websites,” particularly those outside the country, dedicated to copyright infringement and counterfeit goods.
SOPA, introduced Oct. 26 by Smith, seemed headed toward approval by the House Judiciary Committee in December after more than 20 amendments designed to address concerns voiced by technology experts and civil liberty advocates were overwhelmingly rejected. Smith had tentatively planned to revisit the bill next month to consider what has been characterized as watered-down versions of his original legislation.
Critics have charged the sweeping powers amount to censorship, as rights holders would be able to demand a website remove content without having to prove it’s theirs. If the site owners don’t respond within five days, the host would either have to take down the entire website or face a potential lawsuit. SlashGear’s primer also points out that SOPA would permit conflicts of interests that favor large companies.