Supposedly we’ve won today. Both the PROTECT-IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives have been shelved by their respective sponsors. However, these acts have been shelved before, and the bags of money sent to DC didn’t suddenly devalue, so I’m sure the next SOPA is being written as we speak. What did make me happy, though, was Neelie Kroes: the EU commissioner for the digital agenda has unambiguously distanced herself from SOPA, which she calls “bad legislation”. Obama, the next time you want to make a statement with teeth, just wait for Kroes to do it for you.
As happy as some people are, most of the official wording surrounding the shelving and delaying of the two acts read like caricatures. I joked about how American politicians would rename it to the “Protecting American Jobs and Loving Puppies and God Act”, but I had no idea just how accurate my silly prediction is actually turning out to be. Feel free to cringe as you read the following official statements.
First, let’s focus on PIPA. Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, postponed the vote on PIPA, which was to be held January 24, and announced this move on Twitter (of all places).
“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act,” he tweeted, “There’s no reason that legitimate issues raised about PROTECT IP can’t be resolved. Counterfeiting & piracy cost 1000s of jobs yearly. Americans rightfully expect to be fairly compensated 4 their work. I’m optimistic that we can reach compromise on PROTECT IP in coming weeks.”
In other words, it isn’t shelved or thrown into the bin at all – they’re just holding out for more money from Hollywood. The Act’s sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy, isn’t pleased, and, like with many politicians who feel threatened, his rhetoric is getting more over the top by the day.
“In the meantime, more time will pass with jobs lost and economies hurt by foreign criminals who are stealing American intellectual property, and selling it back to American consumers,”
Darryl Weathers Leahy said in a statement, “Somewhere in China today, in Russia today, and in many other countries that do not respect American intellectual property, criminals who do nothing but peddle in counterfeit products and stolen American content are smugly watching how the United States Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy.”
I’m feelin’ the love.
In the meantime, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has ‘shelved’ his SOPA, but, well, we’ve heard that before. “I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” he said in a statement, “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products. The online theft of American intellectual property is no different than the theft of products from a store. It is illegal and the law should be enforced both in the store and online.”
Since I have a master’s degree in translation, let me translate that for you in a language we can all understand.
“I admit that I have failed in quickly shoving this bill through congress,” he said in a statement, “However, the people who send me large bags of money have told me that piracy is a real problem, so as soon as the next big bag of money has arrived, I will rename this law to something involving puppies and try again. Also, they took our jobs. Furthermore, I am completely clueless about the difference between copyright infringement and theft because the people who send me money have told me there is none.”
We haven’t won this war – we’ve only postponed our defeat. The rest of the web seems to be in a pretty euphoric state of mind with all this, but the news that these two acts are being shelved doesn’t make me all that thrilled or happy at all. What does make me happy, though, is Neelie Kroes’ stern words on SOPA.
“Glad tide is turning on SOPA: don’t need bad legislation when should be safeguarding benefits of open net,” she tweeted, “Speeding is illegal too: but you don’t put speed bumps on the motorway.” This, Mr Obama, is how you take a real stand; something that we can build upon, something that leaves no doubt about as to what Kroes supports and what she doesn’t support. Clear and concise, no room for interpretation.
In any case, I suppose congratulations are in order. Still, we can’t rest on laurels. Remain ever vigilant.