The fight over the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's companion Protect IP Act (PIPA) is a largely a proxy war between two of California's biggest industries: The movie and music industries on the pro-SOPA/PIPA side and the Silicon Valley tech enclave on the other. On Wednesday, the tech side flexed its muscle — Wikipedia and scores of other websites went dark in protest, 4.5 million people signed Google's petition against the bills, and SOPA/PIPA opponents flooded Congressional phone lines and websites — and Congress apparently took note. An impressive number of lawmakers dropped their support for the bills, and legislation that was soaring through Congress not too long ago now appears to be on the verge of crashing or being completely revamped. What's next for the controversial anti-piracy measures?
Did the web blackouts really move the needle?
It's hardly a coincidence that lawmakers "are rushing for the exits in the wake of the internet's unprecedented protest," says Timothy B. Lee in Ars Technica. At least 18 Senators just came out in opposition to PIPA or withdrew their support, including seven former co-sponsors. House members are defecting in significant numbers, too. Most of the new defectors are Republicans, which is notable because conservatives "have traditionally been strong supporters of copyright and trademark protection," says Jon Healey in the Los Angeles Times.
Why are lawmakers jumping ship on the bills?
The rash of defecting Republicans tend to cite reasons like opposition to federal regulation, the threat of lawsuit abuse, or just online freedom, while the Democrats talk up censorship concerns and civil liberties; the White House warned last weekend that aspects of the bills could stifle innovation. The opponents clearly make for strange bedfellows: The conservative Heritage Foundation and National Review are now against SOPA/PIPA, but so are the left-leaning civil libertarian groups like the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology. But "support for the bills is equally bipartisan," says the Los Angeles Times' Healey, "suggesting that this issue won't be decided by ideology."
What's the vote count in Congress?
According to an OpenCongress tally, there are 33 yes votes in the Senate, 37 no votes, and 40 unknowns or undecideds. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says there won't be a vote in the House anytime soon, because "there's a lack of consensus at this point."
So are SOPA and PIPA dead?
The bills "appear to be doomed to ignominious defeat," says Matt Asay in the U.K's The Register. But Congress will tackle the underlying piracy issues again soon, with good reason. Don't let the "dancing-in-the-street mentality" among SOPA opponents mislead you, says David Kravets in Wired. "By no sense of the imagination are these bills scuttled." House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) says he will keep on fighting to get SOPA passed, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a key procedural vote for PIPA scheduled for Jan. 24. Still, everyone who participated in "the largest online backlash to proposed U.S. legislation should briefly pat themselves on the back."