SOPA and PIPA opponents warn the bills are not dead yet
A day after a widespread Internet protest, key opponents of SOPA and PIPA warned Thursday that the controversial online piracy bills are not dead yet and called for lawmakers to slow down and start over.
"It's not dead at all," said Michael Petricone, vice president of government affairs for the Consumer Electronics Assn., noting that the Senate was still scheduled to hold a procedural vote on the Protect Intellectual Property Act on Tuesday.
At a Capitol Hill news conference, Petricone and others said opponents needed to continue to pressure Congress to remove the legislation from the fast track and start a more open process to craft a narrower bill that would not threaten collateral damage on legitimate websites.
“You have all kinds of very substantive, very smart interests who are bringing up very substantive potential problems with this bill," Petricone said. "Why can’t we step back and get it right? This isn’t the Patriot Act; the country’s not going to blow up if we don’t enact this next week."
Lawmakers' ears were still ringing from the thousands of calls and emails that flooded into Capitol Hill after Wikipedia led about 10,000 websites in a 24-hour blackout Wednesday to protest the bills. At least five co-sponsors of the bills publicly pulled their support, with several others announcing they would not vote for the legislation without major changes.
The lead sponsors of the bills have promised to make changes and are expected to remove the most controversial provision, which would allow Internet service providers to block access to foreign-based piracy sites. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead backer of PIPA, is working on a set of amendments he plans to unveil before Tuesday's vote.
The cautions about the fight not being over were echoed by Wikipedia, whose English-language version was easily accessible again Thursday. A banner at the top of the site reads, "Thank you for protecting Wikipedia. (We're not done yet)."
"SOPA and PIPA are not dead: they are waiting in the shadows," Wikipedia said on a page linked from that banner. "We’re turning the lights back on. Help us keep them shining brightly."
Markham Erickson, who heads a coalition of Internet companies, said Congress needed to take more time to get the legislation right.
"There are solutions, but we need to step back and reset," said Erickson, whose NetCoalition includes Google Inc., Amazon.com, EBay and Yahoo Inc. "Instead of having to negotiate with a gun to our head, so to speak, let’s sit down and have a data-driven process."
He and other SOPA and PIPA opponents are looking toward legislation introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who have been two of the strongest congressional opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act.
Their Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, known as the OPEN Act, is a much narrower approach that would try to cut off the money to foreign piracy sites through the U.S. International Trade Commission. The entertainment industry and other supporters of SOPA and PIPA said such an approach would not be as effective in shutting down foreign piracy sites.
But opponents of SOPA and PIPA said they liked the process Issa and Wyden have used in crafting their bill. The two lawmakers released a draft last year at www.KeepTheWebOpen.com and said they revised it to reflect some of the more than 150 substantive comments and suggested improvements received from visitors to the site.
-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington
Photo: Protesters in New York on Wednesday demonstrate against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images