SOPA’s evil twin PIPA faces defeat in US Senate

19 Jan 2012

Just days after the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was shelved in the US Congress, an equally controversial piece of legislation, Protect IP Act (PIPA), that also contained draconian measures that would foul up the internet has been opposed by 13 senators in the US Senate.

In a day that saw prominent websites like Wikipedia, WordPress, Craigslist and Reddit black out to protest SOPA and PIPA and major social media-based protests by ordinary web users, 13 members of the Senate’s upper chamber announced their opposition.

Both SOPA and PIPA – legislation tabled with the backing of Hollywood and the music industry with a view to gaining control of the internet in the war against piracy – contained legislation that would have seen ordinary websites shut down without due process on a mere allegation that content breached copyright rules.

This and other measures were seen by the internet industry as vitally dangerous to the web and its underlying architecture, not to mention the stifling effect they would have on innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Bills, ostensibly aimed at protecting jobs and the US economy, potentially could have had the opposite effect and would have killed one of the few engines for growth that remain.

The 13 senators who announced their opposition to the PIPA legislation include two Democrats and 13 Republicans.

PIPA was described by republican Senator Orrin Hatch as “simply not ready for prime time.”

Whether yesterday’s mass protest on the web, on the blogosphere and via social media had anything to do with it or not, it is frightening to think how legislation so poorly thought out and yet so potentially damaging could have gotten as far as it had. I guess that’s what lobbyists are for.

The question now is will PIPA and SOPA reappear in another form or will Hollywood and the record labels finally sit down with the tech companies and find a way forward that everyone can agree on.

Ultimately, this is a battle between new media and old media. The latter pining for the good old days when it controlled everything and horrified at the speed of change. The failure is ultimately about refusal to adapt, whereas Silicon Valley and new media companies have change encoded in their DNA.

Yesterday, the internet rose up – not all of it, some of it – but support for PIPA dropped by a quarter among US Republican senators in one day.

It is 13 years since Napster disrupted the music industry, and that industry has failed to change or innovate, instead calling in the lawyers at every slight.

It is 2012, things have changed, they’ve changed a lot. The negotiating table beckons. Most likely it won’t be used and lawyers and lobbyists will return with SOPA and PIPA’s terrible siblings.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years