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Internet Piracy Bills Lose Support
Internet Piracy Bills Lose Support
By Humberto Sanchez, Roll Call Staff
Jan. 18, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
Sen. Marco Rubio withdrew his support for the Protect IP Act today, saying on Facebook that “Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.”
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.
“Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy,” Rubio continued. “Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.
“Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act,” Rubio said. “I encourage Senator (Harry) Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, also a co-sponsor, signaled a wavering in his support of the bill in its current form today.
“NJ: I hear your concerns re: PIPA loud & clear & share in these concerns. I’m working to ensure critical changes are made to the bill,” the New Jersey Democrat wrote on Twitter. “I’m fully committed to ensuring that any bill that passes the Senate will maintain freedom of the internet & protect intellectual property.”
Their comments came after six Senate Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday urging him to postpone a vote scheduled for Tuesday on whether the Senate will take up the measure.
Also today, original PIPA co-sponsor Sen. Roy Blunt said he no longer supports the bill.
“I continue to believe that we can come to a solution that will cut off the revenue sources for foreign websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy that steal American jobs, hurt the economy and harm consumers,” the Missouri Republican said. “But the Protect IP Act is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.”
Other co-sponsors who are seeking changes to the bill include Sens. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who spoke out last week. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) also said he opposes the bill today.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, another co-sponsor of the bill, tweeted late tonight that she would withdraw her support as well.
“Thx 2 NHers contacting me abt #SOPA #PIPA,” the New Hampshire Republican wrote. “I’m pulling my support bc your concerns deserve consideration before Congress moves fwd.”
HumbertoSanchez@cqrollcall.com | @hsanchez128
PIPA support collapses, with 13 new Senators opposed
By Timothy B. Lee
Members of the Senate are rushing for the exits in the wake of the Internet's unprecedented protest of the Protect IP Act (PIPA). At least 13 members of the upper chamber announced their opposition on Wednesday. In a particularly severe blow for Hollywood, at least five of the newly-opposed Senators were previously co-sponsors of the Protect IP Act. (Update: since we ran this story, the tally is up to 18 Senators, of which 7 are former co-sponsors. See below.)
The newly-opposed Senators are skewed strongly to the Republican side of the aisle. An Ars Technica survey of Senators' positions on PIPA turned up only two Democrats, Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who announced their opposition on Wednesday. The other 11 Senators who announced their opposition on Wednesday were all Republicans. These 13 join a handful of others, including Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), who have already announced their opposition.
Marco Rubio, a freshman Republican Senator from Florida who some consider to be a rising star, withdrew his co-sponsorship of the bill, citing "legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet." He urged the Senate to "avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences."
Another co-sponsor, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) echoed that sentiment. He blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for "pushing forward w/ a flawed bill that still needs much work."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), one of the chamber's longest-serving members and another co-sponsor, described the Protect IP Act as "simply not ready for prime time."
The partisan slant of the defections is surprising because copyright has not traditionally been considered a partisan issue. Before Wednesday's protests, PIPA had 16 Republican co-sponsors and 23 Democratic ones. The bill lost a quarter of its Republican co-sponsors on Wednesday, while we know of only one Democrat, Ben Cardin (D-MD), who dropped his support.
Those who dropped their support were most likely bolstered by strong opposition from conservative think tanks and blogs. On Tuesday, the influential Heritage Foundation announced that it would include SOPA and PIPA as a key issue on its voter scorecard. And the popular conservative blog redstate.com, whose founder threatened to mount primary challengers to SOPA supporters last month, has been hailing Senators who come out in opposition.
Neither side is close to having a majority. A whip count by OpenCongress found 35 supporters (including 34 co-sponsors), 18 opponents, and 12 more Senators leaning toward opposition. About 35 Senators have not committed to a position, perhaps reluctant to do so for fear of angering either deep-pocketed Hollywood campaign contributors or their constituents back home.
Here is the full list of new opponents. An * indicates a former co-sponsor.
Roy Blunt (R-MO) *
John Boozman (R-AR) *
Scott Brown (R-MA)
Ben Cardin (D-MD) *
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) *
James Inhofe (R-OK)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Marco Rubio (R-FL) *
Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Update (7 PM): David Vitter (R-LA) is now also opposed. He was previously a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Update (9 PM): Three more opponents, all Republicans: Tom Coburn (R-OK), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Mike Johanns (R-NE).
Update (10 PM): Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is jumping on the bandwagon. She was a PIPA co-sponsor.