M+E Daily

U.S. Lawmakers Table SOPA, PIPA; What Next?

Press pause. Intellectual property owners are rethinking their lobbying strategy after U.S. lawmakers said they would table two anti-piracy proposals.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tweeted Friday morning that he had decided to postpone a Tuesday vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA), although he expressed confidence that legislators could resolve the issues surrounding the bill “in the coming weeks” (via The Washington Post). Meanwhile, Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who had proposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives, told Reuters on Friday that he would be withdrawing the bill.

Mega uproar. The lawmakers’ announcements came hours after the U.S. Justice Department charged the operators of file hosting site Megaupload with “running an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works.” Law enforcement executed more than 20 search warrants in the U.S. and eight countries on Thursday, targeting sites where Megaupload has servers in Ashburn, Va. and Washington, D.C., as well as the Netherlands and Canada. In addition, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. ordered the seizure of 18 domain names associated with Megaupload.

Dodd to Silicon Valley: Come on down. While praising the Justice Department’s action against Megaupload, Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), emphasized that new laws were needed to pursue foreign-based websites that are dedicated to infringement.

“We hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property,” Dodd said in a statement. “The threat posed by these criminal operations has been widely acknowledged by even the most ardent critics.”

Dodd, speaking with The New York Times, also floated the idea of a summit between the nation’s content holders and Internet giants to hash out an anti-piracy framework.

Cost-conscious. Rightsholders may have to overcome more than the anti-censorship rhetoric to win back Congressional support for SOPA-style enforcement measures.

With President Obama set to release his administration’s 2013 federal budget proposal in early February (via AP/CBS), cost-of-government issues are coming back to the fore. So how much will tougher anti-piracy rules cost stakeholders and taxpayers?

While proponents of PIPA and SOPA have argued that tougher IP enforcement would protect American jobs by reducing the content industry’s losses to piracy, Internet advocates have contended that the cost of complying with the legislation would stifle growth (and job creation) in their sector.

In any event, federal courts — which would have shouldered the burden of adjudicating rightsholder claims under PIPA or SOPA — are themselves having to reconcile ever-increasing caseloads with budget and staffing cuts (see this Wall Street Journal story from late December).

Shiver me timbers! Absent from all the sloganeering both for and against PIPA and SOPA is a frank discussion on the pervasiveness of infringement in the digital world. So argues Josh Bernoff, senior vice president of Forrester Research, in an opinion post on “why SOPA won’t work”  at Advertising Age: “Digital piracy is frictionless and nearly riskless. We all do it. And all of us who create content are victims. Go ahead, comment on this blog if you never do it.”