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SOPA blackout: Bills lose three co-sponsors amid protests

January 18, 2012 | 10:19 am

Sen. Marco Rubio

Three co-sponsors of the SOPA and PIPA antipiracy bills have publicly withdrawn their support as Wikipedia and thousands of other websites blacked out their pages Wednesday to protest the legislation.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) withdrew as a co-sponsor of the Protect IP Act in the Senate, while Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) said they were pulling their names from the companion House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act. Opponents of the legislation, led by large Internet companies, say its broad definitions could lead to censorship of online content and force some websites to shut down.

In a posting on his Facebook page, Rubio noted that after the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed its bill last year, he has "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."

PHOTOS: Sites on strike

"Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences," Rubio said in announcing he was withdrawing his support. While he's committed to stopping online piracy, Rubio called for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to back off plans to hold a key procedural vote on the bill on Tuesday.

Rubio's withdrawal will reduce the number of co-sponsors to 39. Last week, two other co-sponsors, Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), joined four other Senate Republicans in a letter to Reid also urging him delay the vote. But Grassley and Hatch have not withdrawn their support.

Terry and Quayle were among the 31 sponsors of the House legislation before they withdrew their support Tuesday.

Quayle still strongly supports the goal of the House bill to crack down on foreign websites that traffic in pirated movies, music, medicine and other goods.

"The bill could have some unintended consequences that need to be addressed," said Quayle spokesman Zach Howell. "Basically it needs more work before he can support it."

Terry said that he also had problems with the House bill in its current form and would no longer support it.

Wikipedia, Reddit and about 10,000 other websites blacked out their pages Wednesday with messages warning of the dangers of the legislation and urging people to contact their congressional representatives. Howell said Quayle's office had not seen a major increase in calls or emails Wednesday, but that the piracy bills have been the main issue in recent weeks for people contacting the office.

There has been a "manageable increase" in visits to House member websites Wednesday, said Dan Weiser, a spokesman for the House office of the chief administrative officer.

"It’s possible some users will see a short delay or slow loading of a member's web page," he said.

RELATED:

More opponents of PIPA and SOPA emerge on the right

SOPA blackout: Who’s gone dark to protest anti-piracy bill?

Wikipedia still accessible during SOPA blackout -- with a little effort

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Credit: Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel

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