Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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.

Protest against antipiracy laws cows lawmakers to withdraw support 01/18/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 9:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Nine years later, library attack victim Queena works at learning to walk again


    Slowly, Queena Phu is learning the act of walking again through exercises in locomotion, strength and balance.

    Queena Phu of Tampa and prosecutor Rita Peters arrive at the Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center on Monday.
 Phu, 27, has endured a long road to recovery after suffering brain damage from a brutal attack that left her unable to walk, talk, see or eat on her own. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Bad decisions led to St. Petersburg's sewage crisis


    A scathing state report on St. Petersburg's massive sewage spills erases any lingering doubts that Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration recklessly closed a sewer plant before adding capacity elsewhere. It also accuses the city of violating state law and questions the wisdom of other decisions, from relying on deep …

A scathing state report on St. Petersburg's massive sewage spills erases any lingering doubts that Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration recklessly closed a sewer plant before adding capacity elsewhere.
  4. FWC: Polk man tried to sell gator tail


    A Lakeland man faces charges after he killed an alligator, cut off its tail and tried to sell the meat to neighbors, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    Shaun Sparks, 33, and Christy Michelle Vincent, 27, both of Lakeland, face charges after trying to sell an alligator tail that Sparks had cut off. [Photos courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Watch Round 3 of Feeding Tampa Bay's Epic Chef Showdown


    TAMPA — Round 3 of the third annual Epic Chef Showdown to benefit Feeding Tampa Bay is Monday night, and you can watch it live right here.

    Chef Richard Bergendale of The Mill restaurant and Sous Chef Jeff Thornsberry of Locale Market competed in Round 1 of the Epic Chef Showdown. [Epicurean Hotel / Feeding Tampa Bay]