Massive SOPA/PIPA protest shift momentum in Senate, but not enough

At least 13 Senators turn vote amidst Internet protests but supporters are still majority

The Record Industry Association of America's (RIAA) snarky tweet didn't give much credit to the alarming gaps, write-in campaigns and overt criticism of sites opposing the anti-piracy bills backed by the RIAA and other copyright owners.

Blackouts by Wikipedia and Reddit, a censorship-mourning-bar Google Doodle and dozens of other online protests had an immediate impact on the Senate, however.

Thirteen Senators who were either positive or neutral on the Protect IP Act (PIPA), including two of the original sponsors of the bill, according to Ars Technica.

Marco Rubio, (R-Fla) withdrew his sponsorship due to "legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet.

"Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time," another former PIPA supporter, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex), wrote on his Facebook page.

Roy Blunt (R-MO) withdrew his sponsorship as well, blaming Senate Majority leader Harry Reid for "pushing forward with a flawed bill that still needs much work."

(Needless to say, but it is a mind-boggling bit of hypocritical acrobatics to co-sponsor a bill and supporting it until it proves unpopular, then withdraw your support and blame a leader of the other political party for having allowed the bill you co-sponsored to be debated. One can only hope, for humanitarian reasons, that Blunt didn't injure himself or become permanently dizzy spinning his own position that hard just so he can blame someone else for it.)

More than 162 million visitors saw the SOPA/PIPA protest page Wikipedia posted in place of its usual content, according to a Thank You the open-source encyclopedia site posted after the protest.

More than 12,000 commented on the post and eight million looked up the contact information for their Senators and Representatives.

“You shut down Congress’s switchboards,” according to the longer version of the note, which included more information on continuing anti-SOPA protests and answers about Wikipedia's own role. “You melted their servers. Your voice was loud and strong. Millions of people have spoken in defense of a free and open Internet.”

Big protest, big reaction; not quite a win

The result of all the protest was a switch in the votes of at least 18 senators, according to a count by Forbes.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate responded to all the attention with public statements on Twitter, Facebook and to local news outlets clarifying their support for SOPA and PIPA as opposition.

Public-interest news site Pro Publica is running a timeline quoting the flood of statements, color-coded to identify pro vs. con.

The result didn't quite turn the tide, however.

A scorecard Pro Publica has also posted lists 38 senators supporting PIPA vs 19 opposed. That leaves 47 whose positions are either unknown or undecided.

This page lists all 100 U.S. Senators, along with their positions on SOPA/PIPA, party affiliation, state and amount they received in campaign donations they received from the entertainment or computer industries in 2010

It may disappoint, but not shock anyone, to point out that, of the 16 senators who received the most in campaign donations from the entertainment industry, only one opposes SOPA/PIPA: Roy Blunt, who co-sponsored the bill and supported it avidly until yesterday, when he tried to blame majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) for Blunt's own support.

Reid, who also supports SOPA/PIPA, is No. 2 on the money list, with $500,300 in donations from the movie/music/TV industries in 2010 and another $299,448 from the computer and Internet businesses.

Here's the list of the first 16; the full list is on this page at Pro Publica.

Name

Party

State

Campaign $ from movie/music/TV industry

Stance on SOPA/PIPA

Barbara Boxer

D

CA

$571,600

YES

Harry Reid

D

NV

$500,300

YES

Charles Schumer

D

NY

$494,325

YES

Michael Bennet

D

CO

$367,733

YES

Kirsten Gillibrand

D

NY

$360,541

YES

Patrick Leahy

D

VT

$346,056

YES

Roy Blunt (PIPA co-sponsor)

R

MO

$154,166

NO

Richard Blumenthal

D

CT

$154,066

YES

Charles Grassley

R

IA

$111,150

YES

John McCain

R

AZ

$104,472

YES

Daniel Inouye

D

HI

$99,900

YES

Patty Murray

D

WA

$99,166

UNKNOWN

John Thune

R

SD

$97,915

UNKNOWN

Johnny Isakson

D

GA

$97,400

UNKNOWN

Christopher Coons

D

DE

$92,700

YES

Al Franken

D

MN

$88,900

YES

  Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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