Frightened by a world without Wikipedia and haunted by a hundred different animated GIFs, Congress has indefinitely postponed its vote on the controversial Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts, delaying decisions on either for the foreseeable future, so long as everyone is suddenly going to pay attention to what they’re doing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith withdrew their respective bills in separate statements, both noting the need, in Reid’s words, “to forge a balance between protecting American’s intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the Internet.” But Smith struck a slightly more ominous tone, vowing that he was still committed to fighting “the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” and remain committed to dismantling our empire one bootleg copy of Green Lantern at a time.
Smith’s reminder about the constant threat of foreigners who detest and exploit our Internet freedom—which appears to be the main thrust of the bills’ supporters, now that yesterday’s raid on Megaupload demonstrates there are already perfectly adequate, rational measures in place to combat domestic piracy—was echoed by PIPA’s architect, Sen. Patrick Leahy, who suggested that this was indeed a dark day for America and that other countries were totally laughing at us right now:
The day will come when the Senators who forced this move will look back and realize they made a knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem," Leay said. “Somewhere in China today, in Russia today, and in many other countries that do not respect American intellectual property, criminals who do nothing but peddle in counterfeit products and stolen American content are smugly watching how the United States Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy."
Oooh that China and Russia—so smug about the ineffectual American government who refuses to enact the simplest totalitarian control on behalf of its corporate interests! That is not how you run a nation-state! Anyway, speaking of mushy corporate-political globs, the sloppy ideological halfway house that is former anti-lobbying Senator turned MPAA spokesman Chris Dodd offered his own “you’ll be sorry” statement, admonishing, “As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals.” For example, the Chinese Eye-Poking Stick, which is actually made in Korea.
Of course, it’s arguable that the innovation-destroying measures enacted by SOPA and PIPA would mean losing even more potential American jobs, and that Dodd is simply resorting to the same scare tactics that have always been employed when conning people into sacrificing freedom for the illusion of security. But at least Reid and Smith have offered the slightly more diplomatic approach of pretending to listen to the people, most likely while working on a more watered-down version of the same bill that they can push through without as many of them noticing next time.