SOPA to be revised, PIPA put on hold, ESA drops support

Internet activists are celebrating a victory today with the news that the Stop Online Piracy Act is to be withdrawn from consideration and rewritten, while voting on the Protect IP Act is postponed. The Entertainment Software Association, the gaming-industry body which had supported the bill even as many members protested it, announced today that it too recognized the need for further consideration of the issues at stake before any laws were passed.

Though voting on SOPA had been postponed earlier in the week, opponents of the bill went ahead with their plan to “black out” sites including Wikipedia and Reddit for 24 hours in opposition to the still-active legislation. (While GamesRadar remained viewable, Dave Houghton was temporarily blacked out, which we like to hope counts for something.) The protest saw support for the bill drop drastically, with several senators withdrawing sponsorship during the blackout.

The ESA today stated that while there remained a “need to address [online piracy’s] pervasive threat to our industry’s creative investment,” it acknowledged concerns raised regarding “unintended consequences stemming from the current legislative proposals.” The Association urged Washington, the White House and corporate bodies to “refocus their energies on producing a solution that effectively balances both creative and technology interests.”

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns,” said Lamar Smith (R-TX), whose House Judiciary Committee had drafted SOPA: “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem.” SOPA has been withdrawn for redrafting, and a vote on PIPA scheduled for Jan 24 has been postponed. Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hasn’t said when the legislation may next come up for consideration, but stated today that he remained committed to the matter of online piracy and saw “no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved.”

Meanwhile, the online-piracy battle saw existing IP laws used to force the closure of file-locker site Megaupload, four of whose senior officers were arrested in New Zealand at the behest of the FBI yesterday. The four, including site founders Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortman, may face extradition to the US to face criminal copyright-violation charges. The four have retained the services of Washington lawyer Robert Bennett, previously known for defending clients including Bill Clinton and executives from Enron.

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