Anti-SOPA activists and a group of Congressman temporarily derailed the Stop Online Piracy Act’s fast-tracking through Congress, but it’s now scheduled for a vote this Wednesday. What now?
Late last week, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) markup sessions were held in anctipation for a fast-track floor vote scheduled for Friday the 16th, allowing SOPA sponsors to sneak the bill past the American people during the collective mesmerization of the holidays, when few pay attention to political events.
However, through a broad anti-SOPA effort involving internet activists, tech company lobbying, communications to legislators, and congressional opposition led by Darryl Issa (R-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the markup sessions and vote were rescheduled, offering proof that activism was able to (temporarily) derail Lamar Smith’s fast-track, anti-debate tactics in committee.
Unfortunately, Smith rescheduled the markup sessions and committee vote for this Wednesday at 9:00am, once again attempting to slip it past the American people. As a bit of consolation to SOPA opponents, a hearing is to be held Friday to discuss how the bill would adversely effect cybersecurity. This would allow security experts and internet engineers to testify. (Last week, 83 internet founders and engineers drafted an open letter to congress in opposition to SOPA.)
“SOPA, as written, would threaten the functioning, freedom, and economic potential of the Internet,” said Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge, noting that scheduling the vote for Wednesday “when many members may well be absent demonstrates a clear desire to continue dodging the questions raised by experts, members, and the public.”
SOPA’s sister bill in the Senate PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) has been scheduled for a cloture vote on January 24, 2012 by Democratic Senator Harry Reid. The cloture vote would be used to circumvent Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has managed to put the bill on hold with the help of a few other senators.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Senate won’t seriously consider passing its own version of the bill, which would surely be filibustered anyway, until the House passes its own version. The Hollywood Reporter also states that most experts believe a vote on the legislation would not happen until March at the earliest, possibly later.
While President Obama has not taken a public position on both pieces of legislation, Rep. Smith is confident that Obama will sign SOPA into law.
January will thus be the month in which activism must redouble its efforts, which includes raising awareness and expressing displeasure by calling and emailing representatives and senators. Anti-SOPA activists should also shift their gaze to convincing Obama that the SOPA and PROTECT IP bills are misguided, and that Wyden and Issa’s OPEN Act is a far better, though still flawed, mechanism for internationally policing online piracy.
Check out EFF’s Toolkit for Anti-SOPA Activism.