Moral Low Ground

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SOPA/PIPA Votes Postponed Indefinitely!

The  Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Internet Property Act (PIPA), two highly controversial pieces of anti-piracy legislation, are dead in the water. For now.

The Raw Story reports that House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Friday that votes on the acts have been indefinitely postponed, but lawmakers who support the measures, which are backed by powerful entertainment industry interests, vowed to press on with the legislation after changing some of the more contentious language it contains.

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved,” Reid explained in a statement. “Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs.”

“We must take action to stop these illegal practices,” he added. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, or an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio. I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. 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.”

Intense public pressure certainly helped scuttle SOPA and PIPA. But many Democrats, who receive large sums of money from groups supporting the legislation, such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), have continued to back the measures. President Barack Obama has backed away from his earlier support for the bills, provoking threats from Hollywood bigwigs to turn their backs on the President as he ramps up his reelection bid.

In abandoning support for the measures, the White House asserted that any anti-piracy legislation must balance censorship concerns with the need to protect intellectual property rights.

Even though votes on the bills have been thwarted, supporters have vowed to press forward with anti-piracy legislation. Backers are discussing ways to make the bills more palatable, such as nixing provisions mandating search engine and DNS blockades.

Still, for now the internet as we know it has won a great victory. Online piracy is indeed a major problem, but to combat it effectively lawmakers will have to find a way to address the scourge of intellectual property theft without tramping on the civil liberties that are the foundation of any healthy free society.

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