New Congress seen shunning SOPA

Backers fear a new bill like the Stop Online Piracy Act would elicit a repeat of last year's massive online protests.

As A new U.S. Congress begins work this month, few insiders expect that there will a rush to create new versions of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

Internet antipiracy legislation, as embodied by SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate, was by far the most controversial tech issue taken up by the outgoing Congress.

The bills would have given the U.S. Department of Justice and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency the power to order domain-name registrars to cut service to websites accused of online piracy or counterfeiting U.S. products. They also would have given officials the authority to prohibit search engines from linking to such sites, and to take action against online advertisers and payment processors with business ties to suspected pirates.

A humongous public outcry prompted a wholesale retreat by supporters of the bills; Senate leaders cancelled a PIPA vote, and SOPA was withdrawn by its sponsor in the House.

On one level, the battle was between industry groups: big music and movie content providers vs. the tech industry. But for millions of people who protested on Reddit and elsewhere, it was about something more fundamental: Internet freedom.

While some business groups are still pushing for government action against online piracy, lawmakers likely lack the collective will to face a protest similar to last year's, in which a number of websites chose to "go dark" to illustrate the effect the laws could have.

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