Senate Gearing Up For PIPA Debate

The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the controversial Protect IP Act on January 24th. The bill is the sister legislation of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), PIPA’s counterpart in the House of Representatives, both acts which have the potential to sledgehammer Internet based companies, ranging from giants like Google to student favorite 9GAG .

After some concerted efforts among the technology inudustry including a mass protest petition signed by over 140 companies, the Chief Sponsor of the bill, Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont hinted at a possible amendment earlier today. In keeping with recommendations from many of the companies, Leahy talked about including an amendment that would require a study of the full impacts of the PIPA’s Internet Service Provider regulation.

While the possibility of an amendment is comforting, one might think that a study of the bill’s impact would be a logical pursuit even before introducing a bill in Senate. And yet, PIPA has garnered over 40 votes on the Senate floor at last count before the Winter closure.

In summary, PIPA allows the US Department of Justice to block access to foreign websites which the D.O.J believes infringes US copyright law. In doing so, the D.O.J will be resorting to Domain Name Server (D.N.S) censorship, the same brand of filtering most popularly used by China and Syria to block citizen access to Facebook, Google and Twitter.

Google’s Policy Manager Derek Slater, previously the Activism Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and an alum of the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society will be on campus next week speaking to students about the impacts of both bills, and discussing what students can do to prevent both acts from gaining any more traction in the Senate.

Event details are available at this link.

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