“When we feel the heat, we see the light.”~ Senator Everett DirksenOn Wednesday, January 18, the forces of liberty gained a major political victory over the entrenched meddlers in Congress. The owners of a handful of popular Internet sites joined together to protest SOPA/PIPA. They blacked out their sites and provided information on the threat to Internet liberty this bill posed.
Before the day was over, a majority of our elected representatives were doing a superb imitation of the captain of the grounded Italian cruise ship. They abandoned ship as fast as he did, and for the same reason. (Note: the reason was not that they had slipped and fallen into the lifeboat, then to be carried to safety against their will.)
A few weeks before, the Senate version of the House’s SOPA (Stop Online Piracy ACT) bill, called PIPA, was unanimously passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. PIPA stands for the Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act. It was non-controversial at the time. It was on a well-greased skid to passage.
Let us not be naive. SOPA/PIPA is a payback for to the entertainment industry’s generous support of PACs and campaign donations. For a list of who got how much, click here.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) did object. He was not on the committee. He vowed to filibuster PIPA. So, Harry Reid announced that he would push it through. He vowed to introduce a 60-vote cloture motion to limit debate. Senator Reid said he would schedule the debate on January 24. There is a Website called Unanimous Consent. It tracks the fast-track bills. Here was its assessment on December 23.
PROTECT IP has 40 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate, which means that it could easily clear procedural hurdles to its passage. At this point, there is considerable momentum towards passage, but opponents have effectively used the internet to direct outrage about the bill towards Capitol Hill and organize opposition. The sooner supporters move on the bill, the more likely it will pass. The later opponents can push back the bill, the less likely it will pass. The more opponents stall, the more Senators will feel uncomfortable with supporting the bill and increase their support of an amendment or compromise. While it is less likely to stop the bill outright, opponents can significantly dilute the content of the bill or substitute a compromise measure.
If you want an overview of just how bad SOPA is, click here.
Phi Beta Iota: Do not fail to read the rest of the article, with a discussion of Matt Drudge lecturing the National Press Club, and the implications all of this has for the immediate future.