Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Politics

Protest against antipiracy laws cows lawmakers to withdraw support

The message could not have been clearer: Keep your hands off our Internet.

As protests spread — online and on the street — Wednesday against proposed federal legislation to fight movie and TV piracy over the Internet, several high-profile lawmakers withdrew their support for the bills, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Twitter feeds and Facebook pages for lawmakers filled with comments, as tech-savvy constituents voiced fears regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives and the Protect Intellectual Property Act in the Senate.

Both bills attempt to curb piracy of copyrighted materials on foreign sites by removing access to them by U.S.-based Internet users.

Some lawmakers reported hundreds of telephone calls to their offices as a "blackout" of services by sites like Wikipedia, Craigs­list, Reddit and Mozilla turned an issue that had simmered in the technology and media worlds into front page news.

Rubio, a Republican, announced on his Facebook page that he would no longer serve as a co-sponsor of PIPA, urging Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid to abandon plans to rush the bill to the Senate floor.

A spokesman for Rubio said he decided to withdraw his support as the day began Wednesday.

"We should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides," Rubio wrote. "(We should) come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet."

Florida's other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, remained supportive of the PIPA legislation, saying the proposed law would be improved.

Across the nation, legislators ranging from Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz., to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, removed or reduced their support for the bills. By day's end, at least 10 senators and nearly twice that many House members had announced their opposition.

The Wall Street Journal reported that both sides of the debate expect the legislation to be renegotiated in the weeks ahead.

A spokesman for Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, said he would likely drop his co-sponsorship of SOPA this week, particularly if chief sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, continues with plans to mark up the bill next month.

"We don't understand the rush," said Ross' spokesman Fred Piccolo. "Something this big and this controversial, we should take some time to consider it."

At Rep. C.W. Bill Young's office, a spokesman reported getting hundreds of calls about the legislation in recent days and thousands of responses from constituents over the past few weeks. The Pinellas County Republican has told members of the committee developing SOPA that he opposes it, according to press secretary Harry Glenn.

"He would see it as censorship," Glenn said.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, expressed similar concerns in an email to the Times, writing, "I am opposed to SOPA but remain interested in effective ways to address online piracy."

Thousands of websites participated in the protest "blackout" Wednesday, either directing users to contact lawmakers or featuring stories about the possible consequences of both bills.

Critics say the legislation might fail to curb piracy while causing loads of unintended consequences — overly restricting Internet access to foreign platforms.

"The blackout scared (legislators)," said Michael Hussey, editor of the Tampa Bay area political blog Pushing Rope, who participated in the protest. "It worked."

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report.

Comments
Melania Trump’s parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on ‘chain migration’

Melania Trump’s parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on ‘chain migration’

The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Alex Trebek will moderate a Republican debate in the Pennsylvania governor’s race

Alex Trebek will moderate a Republican debate in the Pennsylvania governor’s race

We’ll take "surprising side gigs" for $1,000! "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek will moderate a debate among Republican hopefuls vying for the Pennsylvania gubernatorial nomination.The longtime game show star will be questioning candidates at an Oct. 1 for...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

SPRING HILL — A Hernando County woman new to the political arena has filed as the fifth Democrat to run against longtime Florida lawmaker U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster for his spot in the U.S. House of Representatives.Dana Cottrell, 49, has lived in Sprin...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.The relaunch of the maritime competition canceled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under former P...
Published: 02/20/18
Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election charged an attorney Tuesday with lying to federal investigators about his interactions with a former Trump campaign official. A charging document filed in federa...
Published: 02/20/18
Man featured on ‘Trump Dating’ site has child sex conviction

Man featured on ‘Trump Dating’ site has child sex conviction

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A North Carolina man with a felony conviction for indecent liberties with a child was one-half of the poster couple for a new "Trump Dating" website.News outlets reported Monday that visitors to the dating site geared toward suppor...
Published: 02/20/18
Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Associated PressST. PETERSBURG, Russia — While Russian officials scoff at a U.S. indictment charging 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg, Russia, "troll factory" say t...
Published: 02/19/18
Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Associated PressWEST PALM BEACH — From the confines of his Mar-a-Lago golf club, President Donald Trump offered support Monday for a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases while staying largely mum in the past few days ab...
Published: 02/19/18
For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

The White House was under siege.Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught chargin taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extram...
Published: 02/19/18
President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Donald Trump signaled support for one piece of gun control legislation on Monday, five days after a mass shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead and scores injured."The president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal...
Published: 02/19/18