In May 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Protect IP in a unanimous vote. The next move for the legislation was to go to the Senate floor for a general vote. But it faced an opponent -- Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. Senator Wyden expressed concerns that the bill would harm innovation, hurt the job market and cause other unintended consequences that could do more harm than good. He decided to place a hold on the legislation, delaying the vote until 2012.
As 2011 drew to an end, Wyden renewed his commitment to fighting Protect IP. He said he would filibuster the bill. But what does that mean?
Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid would first have to move the bill toward a vote on the Senate floor, which is called cloture. Cloture creates a 30-hour time limit for debate on a subject, after which at least three-fifths of the Senate must vote in favor to end debate in order to move on to voting on the legislation. If after 30 hours, three-fifths of the Senators don't vote to end debate, the debate could continue indefinitely. If he filibusters, Wyden and senators who feel the same about Protect IP as he does could take up that time saying anything they like, including reading every name off a petition signed by thousands of citizens opposing Protect IP.
At the start of 2012, 40 senators had signed on support for Protect IP. To get the three-fifths majority needed to invoke cloture, at least 20 more senators would have to add support. Without that support, it's likely that the bill would go back into a committee for edits and markups. It could also simply fade away.
In the end, it's clear that piracy is a problem. It definitely impacts revenue even though the actual dollar amount may be impossible to determine. The companies and organizations that lobby the government for legislation protecting them from piracy aren't going to give up if Protect IP fails. It falls to senators and representatives to learn as much as they can about how the Internet works so that they can make the right decisions. It also falls to U.S. citizens letting their own opinions be known by contacting their respective Senators and Representatives.
To learn more about the U.S. government, the Internet and censorship, follow the links on the next page.