Congress Postpones Votes on Anti-Piracy Legislation Amid Protests

Congress has postponed indefinitely two pieces of anti-piracy legislation after major Internet companies staged an online protest on Wednesday, educating users on the impact the bills would have on the Internet and American business and urging them to sign petitions and contact lawmakers to voice their opposition.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today postponed a vote in his chamber on the Protect Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA, that had been scheduled for January 24. Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, said his panel would delay action on similar legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, until there is wider agreement on the legislation.

“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,” Smith said in a statement.

The two bills aim to curb access to overseas websites that traffic in pirated content and counterfeit products, but fears that legitimate sites could be penalized for small technicalities in a government witch hunt supported by the anti-piracy laws has eroded support for the legislation.

Technology companies are concerned the laws would undermine Internet freedoms, be difficult to enforce, and encourage frivolous lawsuits. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and thousands of other websites participated in the protests on Wednesday, gaining the attention of hundreds of millions of people around the world who use the sites every day.

Reid expressed his believe that concerns about the legislation could be resolved, but offered no new date for the vote. His comments come a day after a senior Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the measure lacked the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate. A handful of Senators who had co-sponsored the legislation dropped their support entirely after Wednesday’s protests.

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