PIPA – SOPA Controversy

In the past few months, most Internet users have heard of the PIPA and SOPA controversy – but often are not truly certain what the details of the controversy are. This newsletter, and the next two volumes, provides information on What’s Current, What’s Coming and What’s Possible on these pieces of proposed legislation and related topics in Internet legislation.


What’s Current?

Under intellectual property (IP) law, writers, artists, and inventors are granted certain exclusive rights to the profits from their work. Common types of intellectual property (IP) rights include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets. However, the rights typically come from national laws and thus limited to the lawmakers’ specific countries. In today’s global economy, the international community is seeking ways to provide worldwide IP protection through the “World Intellectual Property Organization” (WIPO), part of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but some progress has not occurred quickly enough for several persons in the U.S.

Thus, from 2007 through 2011, various bills have been presented to the U.S. Congress to protect U.S. citizens whose works were pirated or copied and sold in foreign markets. The most recent have been PIPA and SOPA. Few people argue about the need to protect Intellectual Property (IP) in this Digital Age, but many people question the methods proposed in PIPA and SOMA. This controversy continues today.


On May 12, 2011, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and 11 bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced SB 968, the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, (shortened to the “Protect IP Act” or “PIPA”) into to the Senate.

Five months later, on October 26, 2011, U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and 12 bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA), into the U.S. House of Representatives. SOPA is a sister bill to PIPA.

Various discussions and revisions of PIPA and SOPA took place during Nov/Dec. 2011, but on January 18 and 19, 2012, numerous online protests broke out against the two proposed laws. These included coordinated service blackouts, by an estimated

7,000 websites, and over 7 million petitions signed by individuals and sent to Congress – requesting that the bills be stopped or dramatically changed.


The next day, on January 20, 2012, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that a vote on PIPA would be postponed until issues raised about the bill were resolved. The same day, U.S Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX), the introducer of SOPA, postponed plans to proceed with the bill, stating that: “The [House Judiciary] Committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … and will postpone consideration of the SOPA legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

The next newsletter will describe what these two bills propose, how they compare/differ and the key points of concern. Stay “tuned!”