Today the Internet is witnessing the largest protest in its history, aimed at killing two pending anti-piracy bills. The effort has not been without results. During the past few hours several Senators who co-sponsored SOPA and PIPA have dropped their support. The protests made them realize that the legislation is flawed, and a potential threat to the future of the Internet.
While all the PIPA and SOPA protests are still ongoing, the first statistics coming in are truly impressive.
By 3pm Washington time millions of people had already voiced their concerns. Google just reported that more than 4 million people signed the petition on their site, and the EFF says that 250,000 people sent messages to Congress through their site. These are just two examples of the many initiatives currently being organized.
The big question is, of course, whether this wave of protest is having any effect. The answer is an unequivocal YES.
Not only have Senators’ websites been knocked offline due to the massive flow of traffic, but quite a few initial backers of the bills are having second thoughts.
Below is a list of PIPA and SOPA co-sponsors who have now dropped their support for the pending legislation. They are joined by more than a dozen lawmakers who didn’t sponsor the bills, but have now stated on the record that they are not planning to vote in favor. Some even decided to black out their own site.
Senator Marco Rubio was one of the first to de-list as a PIPA co-sponsor today, stating:
“Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences. “
“Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”
Initial PIPA backer Senator Roy Blunt drops out saying:
“While I believed the bill still needed much work, I cosponsored the Senate version of the Protect IP Act because I support the original intent of this bill – to protect against the piracy of lawful content. Upon passage of this bill through committee, Senate Judiciary Republicans strongly stated that there were substantive issues in this legislation that had to be addressed before it moved forward. I agree with that sentiment. ”
“The right to free speech is one of the most basic foundations that makes our nation great, and I strongly oppose sanctioning Americans’ right to free speech in any medium – including over the internet. I continue to believe that we can come to a solution that will cut off the revenue sources for foreign websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy that steal American jobs, hurt the economy, and harm consumers. But the Protect IP Act is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.”
Senator Mark Kirk also decided that it is a good idea to withdraw his support. He said:
“Freedom of speech is an inalienable right granted to each and every American, and the Internet has become the primary tool with which we utilize this right. The Internet empowers Americans to learn, create, innovate, and express their views. While we should protect American intellectual property, consumer safety and human rights, we should do so in a manner that specifically targets criminal activity. This extreme measure stifles First Amendment rights and Internet innovation. I stand with those who stand for freedom and oppose PROTECT IP, S.968, in its current form.”
Senator Orrin Hatch followed, and is no longer a co-sponsor of PIPA either. He said:
“After listening to the concerns on both sides of the debate over the PROTECT IP Act, it is simply not ready for prime time and both sides must continue working together to find a better path forward”
“Rushing something with such potential for far-reaching consequences is something I cannot support and that’s why I will not only vote against moving the bill forward next week but also remove my cosponsorship of the bill. Given the legitimate vocal concerns, it is imperative that we take a step back to allow everyone to come together and find a reasonable solution.”
Senator John Boozman is no longer backing PIPA, he stated:
“I will have my name removed as a co-sponsor of the bill and plan to vote against it if Majority Leader Reid brings it to the floor in its current form.”
“The PROTECT IP Act seeks to address an issue that is of vital importance to the future of intellectual property rights in the modern era. However, the concerns regarding the unintended consequences of this particular bill are legitimate. Therefore, we should not rush to pass this bill, rather we should be working to find another solution so that the epidemic of online piracy is addressed in a manner that ensures innovation and free speech is protected. I have confidence that we can do this, but not as the PROTECT IP Act stands today”
SOPA also lost two of its co-sponsors. Politico reports that Representatives Ben Quayle and Lee Terry have quietly withdrawn their support for the House bill.
The various protests are still ongoing and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the list above is already outdated by the end of the day.
Although these first signs are positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that PIPA or SOPA are now off the table. There are still many sponsors and supporters left. Both bills are still on their way to be passed in Congress, but with a little less support than before.