It’s official, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is dead! Following a wave of online protests on Wednesday, including the unprecedented blackouts of websites ranging from Wikipedia to Imgur, Congress has wasted no time in backing away from a bill that was once being fast tracked. Yesterday, in the aftermath of the protests, SOPA’s support was already visibly dwindling as politicians on both sides of the aisle moved to distance themselves from the bill. While Wednesday’s protests clearly made an impact, it wasn’t until today that the true extent of that became apparent. Specifically it was early this afternoon, when Lamar Smith, the Congressman who introduced SOPA, announced that he would pull the bill from consideration. While Smith’s statement made clear that the death of SOPA will not mark the end of Congress’s anti-piracy efforts, he also noted that the approach to the problem needed to be revisited; and it’s important to remember that ultimately it was SOPA’s heavy-handed approach that created the lion’s share of the bill’s problems.
Of course, those of you who have been following the situation (or who have read my previous piece on the matter) will know that SOPA was only half the battle, the remainder being the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), the Senate’s counterpart legislation. Well there’s good news on that front too! Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the vote on PIPA (originally set for January 24th) would be postponed, with the new date not yet specified. Unlike Smith, Reid seemed less willing to acknowledge the bill’s specific problems in his statement, instead attempting to frame the issue as one of American jobs.
I have to admit, I’m impressed. While the enormity of Wednesday’s blackouts was plain to see, I honestly thought it would take longer for Congress to react, particularly with the then-looming Senate vote on PIPA. In fact, while I had every hope that SOPA would fail, I didn’t expect that to happen until after discussion resumed in February. That remained the case even when it started hemorrhaging supporters and sponsors in the wake of this week’s protests. But here we are, barely two days later, with not one, but two major victories firmly in hand. Though the battle, as of this writing, is still not over, the progress we’ve seen in the past few days has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Finally, I’d like to take a minute to thank everybody who did something to fight SOPA, whether you signed a petition, wrote to Congress or even blacked out your website. This truly would not have been possible without each and every one of you. While PIPA is merely on the backburner for the moment, it too will soon be finished if the public continues to pressure the Senate. So sign a petition and write your Senators. The only way to make sure it dies is to keep fighting!
Remember the words of the late protest singer Phil Ochs: “You’ll never really know how far you’ll go ‘til you join together and try.”