Two days after a massive Internet protest leadership in both houses of Congress delayed voting on controversial anti-pirating bills. House Rule 3261 and Senate Bill 968 purport to address online piracy and copyright infringement. Opponents of the bills contend that they are a form of censorship and will potentially break the Internet, as we know it.
Reaction to these bills was swift and widespread. Thousands of websites pledged to go dark on January 18, 2012 to protest the danger that these bills present. Participation varied from Google’s masking out its name on the site to Wikipedia’s total blackout.
A week before the blackout, President Obama responded to a White House Petition on the issues by saying in part, ”Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.”
In explaining his continued sponsorship of the Senate bill, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) wrote in a pre-blackout statement, “Since I am no longer a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, remaining a cosponsor of the bill provides me the opportunity to be an active participant in the process of addressing the most serious concerns raised by my constituents. I would not vote for final passage of PIPA, as currently written, on the Senate floor.”
The day after the blackout support for the bills in Congress dropped dramatically. Using its own data, ProPublica created a graphic that illustrates the shift.
U.S. Senator Harry Reid stated on January 20, 2012 that, “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.” Responding to Senate action, Chairman Smith (R-Texas) released a statement saying in part, “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.” He noted that the House Judiciary Committee would postpone consideration of HR 3261.
Julian Sanchez, a Research Fellow at the CATO Institute, says in a video “it is a form of censorship without due process.” He grounds his claim in a First Amendment right to make and receive information, and that there currently exist mechanisms for “taking down targeted cases of infringing content.”
Fight for the Future produced a video presentation explaining how HR3261 and SB968 can potentially “break the internet.”