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After a year in the grave, can SOPA and Protect IP return?

CNET asked the leaders of the congressional committees that write U.S. copyright law, plus the groups that backed the controversial legislation a year ago, to tell us what will happen next.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
6 min read
Activists take to the Manhattan streets one year ago to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act.
Activists take to the Manhattan streets one year ago to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. Sarah Tew/CNET

It was one year ago today that an unprecedented outcry against the Stop Online Piracy Act proved to Washington officialdom that sufficiently irritated Internet users are a potent political force. After Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist and other major sites asked their users to contact their representatives, the deluge of traffic knocked some Senate Web sites offline, and votes on both bills were indefinitely postponed.

The massive public outcry that, by some counts, involved more than 10 million Internet users concerned about the proposals' impact on free expression has turned the protests into a cautionary tale on Capitol Hill. Aides now worry about tech-related legislation becoming "SOPA-fied," and neither bill has been reintroduced in 2013. Anti-SOPA groups like Public Knowledge are even talking about counterattacking with a bill that would expand fair use or curb what they say are copyright abuses.

There are, on the other hand, some hints that SOPA -- or its sibling, or cousin -- could return. The White House has endorsed SOPA-esque legislation targeting offshore Web sites, Hollywood's top lobbyist said he was "confident" that more could be done, and the new chairman of the House Judiciary committee said he remains "committed to enacting strong copyright laws."

To figure out what's likely to happen next, CNET talked to the most influential politicians and advocacy organizations who tried to enact SOPA and Protect IP last year. Keep reading for their responses, in their own words. (Here's a related slideshow showing the leaders of the anti-SOPA forces.)


he problem of Internet piracy and the sale of counterfeit products online has not gone away. Senator Leahy continues to monitor law enforcement actions, significant developments in the courts and voluntary industry practices, and all those pieces will help determine what next steps are appropriate.

— spokeswoman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee and author of the Protect IP Act


e can all agree about the importance of protecting American innovation from foreign thieves, but I think it is critical that all parties have a seat at the table and work together to solve important policy issues. As chairman of the Judiciary committee, I look forward to working with both the technology and content communities to find ways to protect America's competitive advantage while promoting internet freedom and growth.

— Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), chairman of the House Judiciary committee and original sponsor of SOPA


ollywood and Silicon Valley have more in common than most people realize. We share a commitment to innovation, to our consumers, and are working together to develop new platforms to make that content easily and legally accessible. Like the tech industry, the well-being of the film community is dependent on a vibrant First Amendment and we would never support any legislation that limits this fundamental right. We can all agree no one wins if everyone loses. Preserving freedom of speech and protecting intellectual property rights are not mutually exclusive efforts. Intellectual property protection is essential to creators and makers in both industries and we need to discuss it rationally. Let's use this anniversary to forge a path toward the future where the creative content and technology industries work together to develop meaningful solutions that ensure an Internet that works for everyone.

— Michael O'Leary, senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America


t's a new day for a new music business and for the RIAA. For the better part of the last year, we have focused on being an evangelist for the dynamic, exciting legal online marketplace that now exists for fans. That will continue to be our priority in 2013. We earn more than half of our revenues from digital services and platforms. Not many creative industries can say that. Music helps drive social media trends and device sales. In fact, in 2012, the two top Google searches were music-related. Currently, 19 of the top 20 YouTube videos are music videos. And according to Twitter, seven of the top 10 Twitter accounts are held by artists.

What does this all tell us? Music is at the center of cultural and commercial phenomena. We are not stuck in the past but looking ahead at a promising, bright future teeming with new music options. Which is why we created, along with our online retailer partner NARM, WhyMusicMatters.com, a one-stop educational guide for digital music so fans can know where to get their favorite music in a variety of different ways. And we expect that this bright future will offer access to music in ways currently unimaginable but will perhaps seem commonplace a year from now.

Yes, piracy still continues to plague us and is a continuing threat to our business. But instead of looking to Congress for help, we are tuned in to the marketplace and actively seeking out voluntary partnerships with intermediaries like ISPs and advertisers to help curtail illegal downloading. Moving forward, we want to simplify music licensing to make it easier to develop music business models. We know that music models continue to evolve - access and listening models are becoming more prevalent and it's imperative we derive a fair market return for the music that is the foundation of those businesses. And as always, we'll continue to find new ways to promote the dynamic music marketplace.

— Mitch Glazier, senior executive vice president at the Recording Industry Association of America.


rotection of intellectual property and Internet freedom are critically important. The Chamber will work with members on both sides of the aisle to find an effective and commercially reasonable solution to address this ongoing problem.

— U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman


f you had asked me how I felt on January 18, 2012, about the prospects for protecting the creative work of artists and innovative businesses in the wake of the internet revolt against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, my response might have involved some muttering under my breath and a request for a stiff drink. In the coming week, many who seek to exploit the work of creators without their consent will be looking backwards and celebrating last year's defeat of those bills. So one might expect advocates for artists and creators to be in a dour mood again, but there is ample cause for optimism among members of the creative community...

At least some of the goals of the legislation have been achieved through increased private and government action since the introduction of the first version of the bills in 2010:

• More credit card companies are engaging in best practices. In June 2011, major credit card companies and online payment processors (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, PayPal and Visa) reached an agreement on voluntary best practices to reduce sales of counterfeit and pirated goods by cutting off sites that distribute infringing goods from conducting financial transactions through these processors.

• More advertisers are engaging in best practices. On May 3, 2012, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies issued a statement of best practices to address online piracy and counterfeiting.

• Internet service providers, movie studios and record labels are collaborating on a Copyright Alert System. Under this system ISPs have agreed to notify users when their accounts appear to be used for illegal downloading activity and to impose real consequences on users who refuse to stop after receiving multiple notices.

• Google finally started considering whether sites are rogue websites when doing search rankings. In August 2012, Google announced a change in its search algorithm that takes into account the number of "valid copyright removal notices" when determining the ranking of search results. In its announcement, Google indicated the goal was to help its users find legitimate sources of content more easily...

As more artists and creators stand with their peers and highlight what is really happening on the Internet, more people will listen and think twice. If there is a silver lining to the blackout, it has been the people who we have met this year: artists, reformed 'pirates' academics and lawmakers who want to begin meaningful conversations about promoting creativity and ensuring it finds a place in all of our lives.

— Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance

The faces of those who fought SOPA (pictures)

See all photos