After vowing to move forward with votes on controversial anti-piracy legislation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) both announced Friday that the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) had been postponed indefinitely.
"There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved," the Nevada senator explained in a prepared statement. "Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs.
"We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day's work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, or an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio. I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. 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. 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."
Reid's announcement comes just one day after a whip count by Open Congress revealed a critical mass of Senators had turned against PIPA after the Internet's first major, coordinated work stoppage on Wednesday caused millions to contact their members of Congress to demand the bill be scrapped. It takes just 41 votes to stop a bill from moving through the Senate, and so far 38 members are either confirmed "No" votes, or are leaning toward a "No" on the issue.
In the wake of Wednesday's Internet strike, Republicans largely fled from their support of PIPA while Democrats, who've taken significantly more money than Republicans from interest groups like the Motion Picture Association of America, held fast to their support.
Reid's cancellation of the Senate vote represents a major victory for Internet activists and a significant setback for entrenched entertainment industry interests. The bill is not likely to go away, however -- supportive senators have in recent weeks been discussing changes, such as removing provisions that would mandate search engine and DNS blockades, but it remains to be seen when those may emerge.
"We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how best to address this widespread problem," Rep. Smith said in a statement announcing SOPA's delay. "The Committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation."
The White House, as well, has hedged its bets on PIPA and SOPA as currently written, saying on Saturday that any anti-piracy legislation passed by Congress must balance concerns about censorship with the need to enforce intellectual property rights. The White House said they hope such a balance would “avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet.”
Even without Rep. Smith postponing SOPA, that bill too would have been indefinitely delayed thanks to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) saying he will not bring it to a vote until there’s wide bipartisan agreement. Fellow influential Republicans Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) have insisted they will go to the mat to block the bill in its current form.
Disclosure: Raw Story Media, Inc. participated in Wednesday's Internet blackout protest.