Updated 11:10 am ET, Friday, January 20
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Friday morning announced that he would be postponing a vote on the much-criticized PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) that had originally been scheduled for Tuesday, January 24, handing opponents of the anti-piracy bill their biggest victory yet.
Reid’s statement also attempted to provide a face-saving way of letting down PIPA’s sponsor Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT). As Reid’s statement reads in full:
“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.
“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. 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.
“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 also took to Twitter to explain his position on the bill, saying he still thought that Washington, the tech community and the content industries supporting the bill could reach a compromise on new antipiracy legislation.
Reid tweeted: “There’s no reason that legitimate issues raised about PROTECT IP can’t be resolved. Counterfeiting & piracy cost 1000s of #jobs yearly #pipa,” adding in another tweet, “Americans rightfully expect to be fairly compensated 4 their work. I’m optimistic that we can reach compromise on PROTECT IP in coming weeks.”
Reid’s remarks on Friday came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday night released a statement calling upon Senate Democrats to “shelve” the bill until a compromise could be reached.
Both statements came in the wake of a massive online protest Wednesday, which saw upwards of 70,000 websites — including Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist and Reddit — black-out or partially “censor” their U.S. homepages in protest of the bill and its counterpart in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Numerous lawmakers in the House and Senate who previously supported one or both bills, and numerous lawmakers who hadn’t yet taken a position, chose to come out against the bills on Wednesday as well.
A markup hearing on SOPA
is still scheduled to resume in February has been indefinitely postponed, see below!
First update: Sen. Leahy, PIPA’s sponsor, has released the following statement in response to Reid’s decision to scrap Tuesday’s vote.
It’s a doozy, with Leahy blasting the “knee-jerk reaction” of Senators who abandoned the bill and going on a screed about how “somewhere in China” or “Russia” and “many other countries” online pirates are celebrating Reid’s move.
“The United States Senate has identified a problem directly affecting American jobs, American workers and American consumers. When I first came to Congress, it was the practice of the Senate to debate competing ideas to address such a problem; regrettably, that is not the practice today.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously reported the PROTECT IP Act in May. Since then, I have worked with both Senators and stakeholders to identify concerns and find meaningful ways to address them. Only when the Senate considers this legislation can we do so. In the meantime, more time will pass with jobs lost and economies hurt by foreign criminals who are stealing American intellectual property, and selling it back to American consumers. I remain committed to addressing this problem; I hope other members of Congress won’t simply stand on hollow promises to find a way to eliminate online theft by foreign rogue websites, and will instead work with me to send a bill to the President’s desk this year.
“I understand and respect Majority Leader Reid’s decision to seek consent to vitiate cloture on the motion to proceed to the PROTECT IP Act. But the day will come when the Senators who forced this move will look back and realize they made a knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem. Somewhere in China today, in Russia today, and in many other countries that do not respect American intellectual property, criminals who do nothing but peddle in counterfeit products and stolen American content are smugly watching how the United States Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy.”
Second update: The architect of SOPA, Sen. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has announced that in the wake of the PIPA vote being cancelled, he’s also canceling the markup hearing on SOPA scheduled for February and all consideration of the bill “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Full statement here:
Chairman Smith: “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.
“The problem of online piracy is too big to ignore. American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports. The theft of America’s intellectual property costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while American innovators and job creators are under attack.
“The online theft of American intellectual property is no different than the theft of products from a store. It is illegal and the law should be enforced both in the store and online.
“The Committee will continue work with both copyright owners and Internet companies to develop proposals that combat online piracy and protect America’s intellectual property. We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how best to address this widespread problem. The Committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation.
“The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
Third update: Net Coalition, an Internet industry organization representing some of the largest companies online — including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and AOL — has responded to Sen. Reid’s move to stop PIPA in its tracks.
As Markhan Erickson, executive director of Net Coalition said in a statement: “We commend Congress on recognizing the serious collateral damage this bill could inflict on the Internet. We remain committed to working with Congress to address the problem of piracy without compromising innovation and free expression.”
Fourth update: Numerous other Senators have weighed on in the news of the PIPA and SOPA suspensions, with all of them, including some co-sponsors of the bill, essentially agreeing that the moves were the right ones, given the lack of broad support for the bills at present.
Sen. McConnell, who called upon Reid to cancel the PIPA vote on Thursday, said he was “encouraged” by the news of PIPA’s indefinite postponement.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who had been the targets of a protest Wednesday by New York tech workers upset at the Senators’ co-sponsorship of PIPA, both released brief statements saying that the people’s voice had been heard. Sen. Schumer tweeted his statement and Sen. Gillibrand posted hers on Facebook.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the longest-standing opponent of PIPA, tweeted: “For all those who might have thought that their voice didn’t count in their government, I hope you now know it does.”
Fifth update: The MPAA tweeted a statement posted on its blog by, Senator Chris Dodd, currently the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, in which Dodd blasts Congressional leaders’ decision to halt the progress of SOPA and PIPA.
Dodd’s statement “applaud[s]” those lawmakers who didn’t budge in their support of SOPA and PIPA (there can’t be many of them left at this point) and accuses the rest of Congress of “failing to act,” saying “American jobs will continue to be lost,” as a result.
Read Dodd’s statement in full here:
We applaud those leaders in Washington who have chosen to stand with the millions of hard working Americans all across this nation whose livelihoods are threatened by foreign criminal websites designed to steal. As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals.
With today’s announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property. The threat posed by these criminal operations has been widely acknowledged by even the most ardent critics. It is incumbent that they now sincerely work with all of us to achieve a meaningful solution to this critically important goal.
Earlier on Thursday, Dodd said in an interview with The New York Times that the Web protests had decidedly shifted support for SOPA and PIPA in Washington. “This thing was considered by many to be a slam dunk,” Dodd told the newspaper.
More to come. Stay tuned.