WASHINGTON -- The top intellectual property lawyer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce appears to have sent out an email to underlings on Friday, notifying the world's most powerful corporate lobbyists that their organization is reassessing controversial anti-piracy legislation in the face of bipartisan congressional setbacks.
On Friday, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said they would suspend votes on the bills indefinitely. The Stop Online Piracy Act, and its counterpart in the Senate, the Protect IP Act, had longstanding support from Hollywood and other content industry stalwarts, which were seeking new tools to crack down on internet copyright violations. The bills were vehemently opposed by Internet experts, free speech advocates and tech companies like Google and Yahoo, who warned that the legislation threatened the functionality of the Internet and contained widespread First Amendment abuses.
The Chamber aggressively backed Hollywood and major record labels by lobbying hard on behalf of SOPA and Protect IP, alienating many of its members, which included top tech companies. Yahoo quit the Chamber outright over the lobbying group's position, refusing to take part in the organization any further, and Google was very close to leaving as well.
The Chamber did not respond to requests to comment on the email, which appears to have been sent by Chief Intellectual Property Counsel Steven Tepp. The email vows to press forward but fails to lay out any specific strategy for doing so.
The full text of the letter is below:
As you may have heard, Senator Reid has postponed the vote on the PROTECT IP Act that had previously been scheduled for Tuesday. Similarly, Chairman Smith has postponed further consideration of the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Eighteen months ago, no one was talking about rogue sites. This past week, the whole country was talking about them. And while that discussion didn’t go the way we wanted, we should not overlook the fact that we have literally set the national agenda.
What’s more, even the most strident opponents of the legislation acknowledge the harm and evil of rogue sites and the need for Congress to act. That is the building block for us to continue to move forward and find an effective solution.
You know, as well as anyone, that every day the foreign criminals who operate rogue sites are stealing American jobs and harming consumers. The Members of Congress know it, too. It is clearly in our national interest to address this problem and we remain committed to working towards that goal and optimistic that we will reach it.
I personally want to thank all of you for your hard work and support over the past weeks and months. The breadth and depth of this coalition has been critical and will continue to be critical as we progress to the next phase of the campaign.
So, we will continue to be in touch with our thoughts on how to move forward together.