In Wednesday's protests, thousands of websites, including the English version of Wikipedia, Reddit and Mozilla.org, went dark to protest the two bills. Google remained open for business, but blacked out its logo on its homepage and asked users to sign a petition opposing PIPA and SOPA. More than 7 million people signed the petition, Google said Thursday.
Participants of two anti-PIPA briefings on Capitol Hill Thursday called the protests a tipping point in momentum, and possibly a signal of changes in the way Washington does business. "Four months ago, I would say that the Hollywood community thought this legislation -- PIPA and SOPA -- were cooked, fully baked, and were going to be rammed through the legislative process," said Markham Erickson, executive director of trade group NetCoalition.
Wednesday's protest showed U.S. Web users, for the first time, that they can have an impact on the legislative process, said Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at libertarian think tank the Cato Institute. Until now, there's been a large "transaction cost" for groups that want to lobby lawmakers, in the form of lobbying expenses, he said.
"The transaction costs to organization have fallen so low, that it's no longer apparent in advance who the players are" in any Washington debate, he said.
Christopher Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, a strong supporter of PIPA and SOPA, complained in the New York Times that the protests may change Washington, but not necessarily in a good way. Activists now have the ability to spread their messages worldwide, without regulation or fact-checking, he said.
An MPAA spokesman declined to comment on what regulations Dodd would prefer for Internet activism and speech.
Leahy's office on Thursday sent out an email saying a new law is needed to protect U.S. companies against copyright theft.
"As the U.S. looks to remain globally competitive and to preserve its strength in manufacturing, ensuring stricter enforcement of existing intellectual property laws on the Internet is increasingly important," the email said. "By targeting primarily foreign-based websites that steal American intellectual property, the PROTECT IP Act will preserve existing, high paying jobs while helping to spur job creation in the United States."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is email@example.com.