Updated: 12:14 p.m.
After intense pressure from popular websites and calls from several Senators, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that he will put off a procedural vote on a controversial legislation designed to combat online piracy.
“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act,” the Nevada Democrat said in a release.
His comments come after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday evening called on Democratic leaders to delay the scheduled vote.
Reid said he hopes the concerns raised by the websites can be addressed so that Congress can act to help protect copyrighted material on the Internet.
“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved,” Reid continued. “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, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.”
The Senate bill, also known as PIPA, has been the target of intense opposition from popular websites such as Google and Wikipedia, which contend that the measure is overly broad and would create unintended consequences that could stifle innovation, limit Americans’ free speech rights, increase the risk of cyber-attacks and undermine how the Internet functions.
PIPA would allow the Department of Justice as well as individual copyright owners to bring legal action against Internet users who post copyright-infringing content.
Opponents say the measure would provide the government too much leeway to shut down websites without first notifying their users or owners.
The opposition has shaken the support of at least seven of the bill’s original 40 co-sponsors, including Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).
Supporters of the measure have expressed frustration at what they consider eleventh-hour maneuvering. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill in May without a dissenting vote.
Democratic leaders would have needed 60 votes to cut off debate on the bill before voting to take it up, and it was unclear whether they had them. They had hoped to entice Members to vote to proceed to the measure by promising an open amendment process.
“I admire the work that [Judiciary Chairman Patrick] Leahy [D-Vt.] has put into this bill," Reid said. “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.”
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) postponed action on his Stop Online Piracy Act indefinitely, saying, "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."
Smith said his committee would seek input from supporters of the legislation as well as critics on future bills designed to tackle the problem of online piracy.