Senate Postpones Vote on Anti-Piracy Bill; MPAA Responds

Senator Harry Reid Democratic Policy Luncheon - H 2012
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senator Harry Reid Democratic Policy Luncheon - H 2012

UPDATED: The Senate majority leader suspends action on controversial legislation to curb online pirates.

Harry Reid has postponed a cloture vote for the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the anti-piracy bill he sponsored, following loud protests and blackouts by Google and other leading internet companies.

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved,” the Nevada Democrat and Senate majority leader said Friday in a statement stalling the Jan. 24 vote. “We made good progress through the discussions we've held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”

A cloture vote would require 60 Senators to win approval. It's a vote to cut off debate and advance the bill through the Senate, where it would only need a majority to be passed.

Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith announced that consideration of another bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), would also be postponed “until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

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The decisions arrive amid faltering support for the bills in Congress and two days after web giants such as Wikipedia and Craiglists staged a 24-hour protest of the legislation. Google had blacked out its famous logo, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg condemned the bills in a statement on the social-networking site.

Hollywood, namely the film and music industries, have backed the legislation to halt online piracy; but many within the tech industry fear would threaten free speech and innovation if passed through Congress.

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MPAA chief Chris Dodd, a staunch SOPA supporter, responded to Friday's cancellations in a statement pleading for compromise:

"We applaud those leaders in Washington who have chosen to stand with the millions of hard working Americans all across this nation whose livelihoods are threatened by foreign criminal websites designed to steal. As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals."

"With today’s announcement," Dodd continued, "we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property. The threat posed by these criminal operations has been widely acknowledged by even the most ardent critics.  It is incumbent that they now sincerely work with all of us to achieve a meaningful solution to this critically important goal."

On Friday afternoon, a host of organizations followed suit with a joint statement of their own concerning the SOPA/PIPA suspensions. From the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Musicians, Directors Guild of American, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Terrorities and Canada:

"We hope a new tone can be set and it is not one that turns our advocacy for this legislation into an implication that we promote censorship. Our commitment to the First Amendment is decades old and long established -- it is a matter of public record from long before the word 'Internet' was part of anyone's vocabulary. If one truly embraces free expression, they do not take down the Library of Congress websites, the very symbol of our country's belief in knowledge and learning. We would hope a new tone can be set that does not pit the creativity and innovation of our directors, actors, performers, craftspeople, and technicians against those innovators in other industries. We hope a new tone can be set that does not include website attacks, blacklists, blackouts, and lies. We believe an Internet that does not allow outright stealing has to be the Internet of the future or all the promises it holds will be unrealized."

Dodd said in an interview with The New York Times that he would welcome a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, maybe convened by the White House, to look for an agreement on the legislation.