Senate Majority Leader delays vote on PIPA

A vote on the highly debated proposed piece of legislation the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) has been postponed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced today.

PIPA, which was previously scheduled for a vote Jan. 24, is essentially the Senate version of the House’s proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation. And like SOPA, it gives both the U.S. government and copyright holders the authority to seek court orders against websites associated with infringing, pirating and/or counterfeiting intellectual property. If it becomes law, it could drastically change the way the Internet operates. Under PIPA, if a website is accused of containing copyright-infringing content (like a song, picture, video clip etc.), the site could be blocked by ISPs (like Comcast), de-indexed from search engines, and even prevented from doing business online with services like PayPal.

The news comes just days after several sites across the internet participated in a national protest against the bill. Reddit, Craigslist, Wikipedia, and several others instituted a full blackout of services, replacing their homepages with opposition messages about PIPA and SOPA. Following the blackout protests, 25 U.S. senators publicly came out against the bill. And yesterday, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his party to revoke support for PIPA.

In the statement, Sen. Reid writes:

“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”

One of the “legitimate issues” with PIPA that Reid mentions is a stipulation regarding blocking a website’s DNS record (domain name). In its current form, PIPA gives the U.S. Attorney General authority to order ISPs to block a foreign website’s DNS record if accused of piracy. But to do this, the ISPs would need to remove an extra layer of security (called DNSSEC) that’s used to prove that the site is actually what it claims to be. In other words, blocking DNS records at the ISP-level would make the internet less secure.

The stipulation has drawn plenty of criticism from web security experts. Even Sen. Patrick Leahy, who authored the PIPA legislation, has admitted that more study is needed regarding the DNS blocking stipulation.

Yet, PIPA’s DNS blocking stipulation is far from the only thing critics are taking issue with, as VentureBeat pointed out in our recent feature 10 things you need to know about SOPA and PIPA.

For more information about anti-piracy legislation, check out VentureBeat’s ongoing PIPA and SOPA coverage.

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