SOPA shelved, not dead, and PIPA still alive

| January 17 2012
Christopher Cook

There has been a great deal of consternation about the effects on liberty that might result from the passage of SOPA, the Stop Internet Piracy Act. Recently, opponents were heartened by the following news:

The House Oversight Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has long been a stern critic of the Orwellian “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) (H.R. 3261).  The representative announced some huge news on Monday.  He reveals that Majority LeaderRep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised to shelve any potential vote in the Republican-controlled House in terms of passing SOPA.

However, though the bill is shelved, it could com back:

So is it dead? Did we win? No, and here’s why:

– In that same statement, the White House also said “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response…” followed later by ““That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders.” They still want to pass anti-piracy legislation this year.

– SOPA is not dead, it’s been “shelved” and won’t return “until a consensus is reached.”

SOPA’s twin in the Senate is still alive:

– Protect IP (PIPA), the Senate version of the House bill, is still very much alive, and has not even been shelved, much less killed. It is equally as bad of an idea as SOPA, even if most protests are being directed at SOPA recently.

That being said, support in the Senate may be weakening too:

On the Senate side, six Republicans who previously supported PIPA asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to postpone a scheduled Jan. 24 vote on the bill. In a letter to Reid, the senators said the bill needed more debate to avoid “unintended consequences.”

Some see clever machinations at work:

Some on the internet are describing what’s happening now as an old sales tactic. You make a ludicrous offer on something (SOPA), then retract it and make a new, slightly less crazy one (PIPA, or a reshaped SOPA) that suddenly feels sane by comparison, and the other party accepts.

The truth, however, may be a bit more prosaic. The entertainment industry is doing what big industries sometimes do: They are looking to government to pass legislation that protects their interests. Because their voices are a lot more organized than the general populace, the legislators feel compelled to take action. They crafted something that they think satisfies the needs of the industry and put it out there. Then the people responded with their views.

They may yet try to go with a “lite” version of the same bill in order to satisfy the requests of the industry while trying to meet the concerns of the public. There may not be so much conspiracy there, however, as just the action-reaction process in the jostling scrum of public interests, business interests, and government.