Rubio: On second thought, SOPA/PIPA's a bad idea

The SOPA/PIPA Internet blackout has delivered a message to at least one elected official in Washington, DC.  Tea Party favorite Senator Marco Rubio announced a few minutes ago on his Facebook page that he has abandoned his support for the Senate PIPA bill and will ask Harry Reid to withdraw it.  And considering that Rubio co-sponsored the PIPA bill, this is fairly significant news:

In recent weeks, we’ve heard from many Floridians about the anti-Internet piracy bills making their way through Congress. On the Senate side, I have been a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act because I believe it’s important to protect American ingenuity, ideas and jobs from being stolen through Internet piracy, much of it occurring overseas through rogue websites in China. As a senator from Florida, a state with a large presence of artists, creators and businesses connected to the creation of intellectual property, I have a strong interest in stopping online piracy that costs Florida jobs.

However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies.

Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.

Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.

We’re not blacking out Hot Air today, but I did suspend the Obamateurism feature today to call attention to the protests.  Those protests are definitely having an impact, although National Journal reported earlier today that Reid still wants to move PIPA to a floor vote:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., appears intent on moving ahead with legislation that would provide new tools for curbing piracy and counterfeiting on foreign websites despite growing opposition that will culminate on Wednesday in an online protest by thousands of websites.

Reid announced last month that he intended to bring an intellectual-property bill known as the Protect IP Act to the Senate floor on Jan. 24 for a vote on whether to allow debate to begin on the legislation. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has been blocking the bill from moving to the floor since it was approved in May by the Judiciary Committee.

Now that one of the signatories to the bill has reversed course, it will make a floor vote even more problematic for Reid.  Plus, it’s doubtful that a companion bill in the House will get produced at all, which would make this a fairly significant political risk with no payoff in the end, especially since the White House has openly expressed its own misgivings over the bill.

No one disputes the need to protect and defend copyrights.  Most of the websites participating in this protest have an interest in battling piracy.  The need to protect copyrights, however, does not outweigh the need for checks on prosecutorial power and due process for the accused.  Rubio has belatedly gotten it right — Reid needs to pull back PIPA, the House needs to scratch SOPA, and both need to start over again in those efforts.