Legislation to combat overseas online piracy is hemorrhaging support after recent intense opposition from major websites such as Google, with Senate Democrats and Republicans reassessing their position.
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill — known as the Protect IP Act, or PIPA — last May, but it wasn’t until recently that large websites, such as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, began to oppose the measure. Wikipedia went temporarily black today to protest the bill.
Other websites, including link aggregator Reddit, also held online strikes in an effort to raise awareness of the issue. Opponents believe the bill overreaches and would impede Internet users who do not violate copyright laws.
For example, if something on a website contained copyrighted material, the entire website could be shut down without first notifying the users or the owners of the website, opponents allege.
If enacted, PIPA and a House version of the bill would allow the Department of Justice as well as individual copyright owners to bring legal action against Internet users who post copyright-infringing content.
Senate Democratic leaders still plan to hold a vote Tuesday on whether to cut off debate and vote on whether the Senate will take up the measure, according to aides. They will need 60 votes to cut off debate and hope to entice members to vote for the package by promising an open amendment process.
But it is unclear whether they will have the votes, especially as the opposition to the measure wears down support for the proposal. The bill initially had 40 bipartisan co-sponsors, and some are beginning to abandon it.
Sen. Orrin Hatch said today he no longer backs the bill. “After listening to the concerns on both sides of the debate over the Protect IP Act, it is simply not ready for prime time, and both sides must continue working together to find a better path forward,” the Utah Republican said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who was a co-sponsor of the bill, on his Facebook page today explained why he has had a change of heart.
“I believe it’s important to protect American ingenuity, ideas and jobs from being stolen through Internet piracy, much of it occurring overseas through rogue websites in China,” the Florida Republican said. “However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.