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PIPA Dead in its Current Form UPDATE: Postponed

PIPA will not survive next week. The latest whip count from Open Congress shows 45 Senators now opposed to the legislation, with 41 of those on the record in the media. That would be enough to stop the bill on the floor. Moreover, Mitch McConnell has asked Harry Reid to postpone the legislation, a pretty good indication that the GOP will turn en masse against the bill if it comes up for a vote.

“While we must combat the on-line theft of intellectual property, current proposals in Congress raise serious legal, policy and operational concerns,” McConnell said in a statement. “Rather than prematurely bringing the Protect IP Act to the Senate floor, we should first study and resolve the serious issues with this legislation. Considering this bill without first doing so could be counterproductive to achieving the shared goal of enacting appropriate and additional tools to combat the theft of intellectual property. I encourage the Senate majority to reconsider its decision to proceed to this bill.”

Keep in mind that this was a bill that got a unanimous vote out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While Reid maintained his commitment to hold the vote (seemingly just to say to the entertainment conglomerates that he gave it a shot), according to Politico Democrats will not whip that vote, and every Senator is free to vote their conscience. Before this is done, the bill may not get 20 votes on the floor. There’s the possibility that Patrick Leahy pulls this out with a manager’s amendment, but the profile is too high for anything too sneaky to work, and the default position will be opposition.

Yes, this is a temporary victory. House Judiciary Committee chair Lamar Smith, whose two aides wrote the bill before moving on to become entertainment industry lobbyists, plans to resume the markup in his committee in February. And the lobbyists are playing a long game, hoping to wait out this fad from the Internet. But in last night’s Presidential primary debate, you had every single candidate voice opposition to the bill, even Rick Santorum, who doesn’t like the fact that “anything goes on the Internet” (I’ll bet he doesn’t). Since Democrats, chasing Hollywood checks and armed with bogus numbers about the cost of piracy, have stupidly let the GOP own this issue, even if they want to come up with some “fix” I can’t see Republicans letting them for a long time. (I’ve posted the transcript of the debate responses on the flip).

Not to mention the fact that the shutdown of Megaupload and the arrest of its executives suggests that law enforcement has every tool it needs already to combat online piracy.

The US government has closed down one of the world’s largest filesharing websites, accusing its founders of racketeering, money laundering and presiding over “massive” online piracy.

According to prosecutors, Megaupload illegally cheated copyright holders out of $500m in revenue as part of a criminal enterprise spanning five years.

A lawyer for Megaupload told the Guardian it would “vigorously” defend itself against the charges, dismissing the criminal action as “a civil case in disguise”.

Somehow, without the benefit of SOPA or PIPA, the government found a way to shut down Megaupload. Something tells me that existing law is more than sufficient (if you read about the case, perhaps a little over-sufficient).

UPDATE: Harry Reid’s office just sent over the news: he’s postponing the vote.

“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.”

Strip away the boilerplate and the blather, the bill is dead and they didn’t have enough time to fix it. The grassroots coalition must stay vigilant as this will come back again. But this is a fantastic day.

Here are those debate responses:

Gingrich: “You are asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood? I am weighing it and thinking fondly of the many left wing people that I am so eager to protect. On the other hand, you have so many people that are technologically advanced such as Google and You Tube and Facebook that say this is totally going to mess up the Internet. The bill in its current form is written really badly and leads to a range of censorship that is totally unacceptable. I believe in freedom and think that we have a patent office, copyright law and if a company believes it has generally been infringed upon it has the right to sue. But the idea that we have the government start preemptively start censoring the Internet and corporations’ economic interest is exactly the wrong thing to do.”

Romney: “The law as written is far too expansive, far too intrusive and far too threatening of freedom of speech and information carried across the Internet. It would have a depressing impact on one of the fastest growing industries in America. I care deeply about intellectual content going across the Internet and if we can find a way to very narrowly go after those people who are pirating especially those offshore. But a very broad law that gives the government the power to start saying who can pass what to whom, I say no and I am standing for freedom.”

Paul: “I am one of the first Republicans to oppose this law and so glad that sentiment has mellowed up here as Republicans have been on the wrong side of this issue and this is a good example on why its good to have someone who can look at civil liberties … freedom and the constitution bring people together.”

Santorum: “I do not support this law and believe it goes to far. But I will not agree with everyone that there isn’t something that should be done to protect the intellectual content of people. The internet is not a free zone where anyone can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people. Particularly when we are talking about entities off shore. The idea that the government has no role to protect the intellectual property of this company, that’s not right. The idea that anything goes on the Internet? Who has that idea. Property rights should be respected.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen