The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act may have been the two most hated bills in recent legislative history and now they’re dead. Or are they?
Congressman Lamar Smith “postponed consideration” of SOPA after the Senate postponed the similar PIPA
legalization. Does a postponement mean death? Is tabling a bill the
same as sealing it in a mahogany box and burying it six feet
“I think that it is dead,” said SUNY Geneseo Political Science Dept. Professor and Chair Jeffrey Koch, Ph.D.
But then he added, “It’s dead for the rest of the year. Especially in
an election year; anything that generates this level of controversy.”
To understand the legislative process, Koch explained, one needs to
know that most bills fail. They’re assigned to committees and then they
die a rather quiet death. In fact, most legislators who introduce bills
already know this, though Koch thinks its unlikely the authors of SOPA
and PIPA thought their bills would die right away.
So the bills are dead and unlikely to return in 2012. What makes Koch
think they could rise from their murky graves in 2013 or beyond?
“There are bills that do come back,” he said. In fact, “Many bills
that do become laws were introduced in many previous Congresses.” He
cites health care as an example: Congress has been wrangling over health
care legislation for almost a century. And as we all know, a health
care bill did finally pass both chambers; President Obama signed it into
law in 2010.
It’s simply not unusual for bills on certain issues to get “introduced again and again and again over time,” Koch told Mashable.
Similarly on the topic of these SOPA and PIPA bills, he said it’s
unlikely that they’re dead for all time. The reality is that while most
people enjoy the openness and ubiquity of the Internet, piracy is real,
is costing people money — and this means, Koch said, “I can’t imagine
that it’s going to go away so easily.”
Still, legislating a global entity like the Internet is no simple
task. Piracy can start far outside U.S. jurisdiction and, Koch told us,
“U.S. law can only reach so far.”
Professor Koch offered no opinion on the contents of the bills — but
agreed that they were hard to read, and needed a simplified version.
“They’re written in a very technical legalese,” he said. “That has
been the case for quite a while. Most bills these days are that way.
Particularly if they do deal with something that is a technical issue,
and there are a lot more bills like this as society has become more
technical and the issues become more technically complex.”
To review, then: SOPA and PIPA are dead, but only in the way a zombie is dead.
They or something like them will rise up again in 12 months. The new
bills may even start dragging themselves around the halls of congress
right after the November’s presidential election. Future versions will
likely try to address the same persistent issue of piracy, and they will
be just as hard to read and understand as today’s “dead” versions of
SOPA and PIPA.