Support Diminishing for Anti-Piracy Bills SOPA, PIPA

Days after the White House said the president was no longer a supporter, congressmen are joining the opposition.

On “Blackout Day,” with major web sites going dark or putting up protests against proposed anti-piracy legislation which has been strongly supported by entertainment industry companies, support was eroding among Congressmen making chances of passage appear dim.

The bills in questions are the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. Both appeared to have strong support only days ago, but there is now a major backlash.

On Jan. 14, a White House blog indicated the President was no longer a supporter of the bill as it had been presented. On Wednesday there were reports the White House was moving toward a more conciliatory position – such as a rewrite of the bill to omit certain provisions – under pressure from supporters in Hollywood and the drug industry, which also supports the legislation

However, a call and email to the White House communications office, did not elicit any immediate response as to a change in position.

A source at the MPAA said Wednesday that they have offered to drop a section of the bill dealing in DNS blocking, which would force online services like Google and service providers to block access to any website if a federal court rules that it has carried copyrighted intellectual property without permission. However, even that did not slow the mounting protests.

Despite complaints by supporters that the black out of web sites is just a stunt, it has fueled a growing national discussion of the legislation which has taken on political implications. With protests in the streets of New York City, enough members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have backed away to make it unlikely the bills will be passed in the form that has been supported by the MPAA, the Directors Guild and others in Hollywood.

MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd on Tuesday strongly criticized the black outs and those who support them, led by tech giants including Google and eBay. On Wednesday Creative America, a group formed in part to support the passage of this new law to take on piracy by foreign websites, said it would launch another advertising campaign and criticized those who want to kill the bills.

"With the opponents of the bill trafficking in misinformation, fear tactics and public relations stunts like blacking out their websites — in essence censoring the Internet themselves — we thought it more important than ever to get the message out that these bills are reasoned, narrow, effective and necessary measures to combat foreign rogue sites which are preying on American consumers and costing American jobs," said Mike Nugent, executive director, Creative America. "This message needs to be heard by both our elected officials and the general public and our ad campaign is designed to reach both audiences."

However, all day Wednesday the list of Congressmen backing off support, taking their name off the bills as sponsors, and openly joining the opposition continued to grow.

The list of former sponsors now includes Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), Orin Hatch (R-Utah), John Cornyn (R-Tx.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mississippi).

“Given the legitimate vocal concerns,” Hatch said Wednesday, “it is imperative that we take a step back to allow everyone to come together and find a reasonable solution.”

On the House side the list of defectors includes Representatives Ben Quayle (R-Az.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Justin Amash (D-Mich.).

Amash wrote on his Facebook page: “These bills give the federal government unprecedented power to censor Internet content and will stifle the free flow of information and ideas. In protest, I have changed my profile picture and will temporarily disable your ability to post independent content on my Wall (although you still may comment under this post). Demand that Congress and the President keep the Internet open and free.”

Even if a majority of members of the House and Senate were to remain supporters, the future of the legislation would be in question now. For example, in the U.S. Senate it is going to take a vote of 60 Senators to cut off debate by opponents, and it appears that there will not be enough to do so.

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nv.), the majority leader, has remained steadfast in his support of PIPA, but he is under pressure to delay a planned vote on closure, which could shut off debate, which is scheduled for next week.

A House committee is also scheduled to resume debate on potential amendments to the SOPA bill next week; but it is unclear now if that will go forward.

A hearing in D.C. that had been scheduled by Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA). which supporters say was meant to bash SOPA was cancelled, apparently because with everything going on, it was decided there was enough bashing going on already.