IP & The Internet Wiki
Great Seal of the United States.
Full title Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011
Acronym PIPA
Legislative history
Major amendments
Relevant Supreme Court cases

The PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), its full name being Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP), that is currently a bill that is on hold indefinitely; it was going through the legislative process in the United States Senate. A similar bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), was introduced into the United States House of Representatives, which is currently on indefinite hold in the House.

PIPA was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and aims to provide the United States government and copyright holders added means of protecting their intellectual property from infringement and counterfeiting, especially by websites registered outside of the United States.

The bill, introduced on May 12, 2011, has both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. It unanimously passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but a hold was placed on it by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). Despite the hold and substantial criticism from the tech industry and internet users about PIPA and SOPA, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid currently plans to hold a Senate vote on the legislation on January 24, 2012.

The vote has been put on hold indefinitely, see below under "current status".

The legislation[]

The PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which is similar to the Stop Online Piracy Act which was before the United States House of Representatives, is a United States Senate bill, which is intended by its authors to stop infringement and piracy of intellectual property on the Internet.

According to the bill, it does not alter current trademark or copyright laws, but instead would give the United States government and copyright holders additional tools to pursue websites, particularly foreign websites, engaging in infringement and piracy.

PIPA’s enhanced “enforcement against rogue websites operated and registered overseas” includes giving authority to the United States Department of Justice to obtain court orders against websites that are dedicated to infringement, if an individual owner or operator is unable to be located. The Attorney General, the head of the Justice Department and a member of the President's cabinet, would then give notice to the accused of the copyright claim. A court order could be served to financial service providers, advertising agencies, ISPs, and search engines that would force them to cease all financial transactions with a website that has been accused of infringement.

Search engines would also be forced to cease linking to that website, such as displaying it in search results. This is done to prevent access to the supposedly infringing website. Domain name servers would be required to prevent the domain name from reaching an infringing website’s IP address, though the website could still be reached by its IP address alone. Linking to its domain, however, would not allow an individual to reach the website.

In addition to preventing access to the website, a court order would allow trademark and copyright holders who claim to have been harmed by the website’s supposed infringement to seek an injunction against the domain name in order to force financial service providers to cease transactions to and advertising agencies from placing advertisements on the website. It would not, however, be able to obtain the same results available to the Attorney General.

The Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan agency within the United States Congress tasked with providing economic data to Congress, has estimated that PIPA's implementation would cost the government $47 million through 2016. These costs would be incurred through the enforcement of the legislation, as well as the employment of 22 government agents and 26 staff members responsible for overseeing the enforcement.

Those involved[]

Major proponents[]

The following forty (40) Senate members, consisting of twenty-three (23) Democrats, sixteen (16) Republicans, and one (1) independent, co-sponsored the Protect IP Act, the Senate version of the bill:

In addition to members of the Senate, the bill was lobbied for by a number of organizations. Supporters include businesses, industry and labor groups within the entertainment industry, such as the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the American Federation of Musicians, the Screen Actors Guild, Viacom, and NBCUniversal, amongst others. The bill is also supported by the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), as well as companies such as Nike, Pfizer, the Ford Motor Company, the National Basketball Association, and Sony.

Major opponents[]

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is a vocal opponent to PIPA, and he placed a hold on the legislation shortly after it passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee. He believes it would be harmful to free speech and the integrity of the internet, and he has proposed an alternative bill called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act. The bill was also worked on by House opponents of SOPA, such as Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), both long opponents of PIPA and SOPA.

In addition to legislative opponents, industry and lobbying opposition came from such places as Wikia, Wikipedia, Reddit, Facebook, Google, American Express, the Electronic Frontier Association, and Human Rights Watch, amongst others. The founders of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Foursquare also oppose the legislation, as do the Tea Party Patriots and Occupy Wall Street.

Starting during the hours of the Internet Blackout protests of January 18th, Senators began mass withdrawing their support until two days later, when Patrick Leahy put an indefinite hold on the bill.. Major proponents having changed their stance include Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.



Supporters of PIPA, which are primarily from the content industry, contend that new laws are needed to help media outlets, software developers, and content retailers, curb the continuation of online piracy, which is the illegal distribution of copyrighted media over the internet. Republican and Democratic Senators alike have both issued statements of support for PIPA.[1]

A major source of support for the legislation is the entertainment industry in Hollywood, particularly the Motion Picture Association of America. The MPAA, as it is commonly referred to, along with pharmaceutical companies, media outlets, and the United States Chamber of Commerce, has lobbied Congress to provide increased protection for intellectual property rights.

The MPAA has also stated that passing legislation such as PIPA and SOPA helps job creation and keeps jobs in place. The Chamber of Commerce has estimated that entertainment outlets lose $135 billion in revenue every year as a result of pirated and counterfeited content.[2]


Critics of PIPA, as well have SOPA, have cited various concerns over technical issues, civil liberties, user-generated content, and economic issues.

Technical concerns[]

Technical concerns were raised over the DNS provisions of the legislation, with Internet engineers suggesting that the proposed provisions would cause cybersecurity issues and break the internet. They contend that the bill is "incompatible" with DNS security improvements already in place, that innocent websites would be fundamentally damaged or shut down, and that domain name blocks can be bypassed by using a website's IP address.[3]

Other concerns raised include the use of servers located outside United States jurisdiction to host websites, which could be used to circumvent DNS blacklisting laws and "expose users to new potential security threats." Fake servers, for example, could be used by criminals in order to steal user information from websites.[3]

In response to these DNS concerns, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the primary sponsor of the legislation, removed the DNS provisions from the legislation.[4]

Civil liberties[]

Experts on civil liberties, such as scholars and advocacy groups, have criticized PIPA for infringing upon free speech rights on the internet. First Amendment scholars Laurence Tribe and Marvin Ammori have stated that the act, while claiming to target foreign websites, would impact American websites that "facilitate" or "enable" infringement. This would mean that websites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook could all be subject to the penalties of the legislation,[5] thus silencing "a lot of non-infringing speech."[6]

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet advocacy group, used the example of WikiLeaks, suggesting that one page on WikiLeaks that was accused of infringement could cause a court order to force the entire website to be nearly inaccessible. This would raise free speech concerns given that lawfully-posted content could be found elsewhere on the website.[7]

Google has also spoken out against PIPA, arguing that the free speech issues suggest that American internet policy would be moving closer towards that of China's restrictive internet controls. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said, "If there is a law that requires DNSs to do X and it's passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it."[8]

User-generated content[]

Online communities, critics contend, would be negatively impacted by the legislation. This includes websites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, and Wikia, amongst others. The New America Foundation said that the provision allowing for DNS blacklisting could result in "innocent online communities" being "punished for the actions of a tiny minority."[9]

Wikia CEO Craig Palmer further expanded upon this issue, stating that the proposed legislation, while well intentioned, could cause a service like Wikia, and all of its hundreds of thousands of wikis, to be DNS blacklisted as a result of one user uploading an image to one wiki. Website owners would also be forced to monitor all content uploaded onto their websites, and owners could be held responsible for the infringing uploads of one user.[10]

Economy and jobs[]

Although many critics of PIPA agree that online piracy costs billions of dollars in losses to the economy as well as thousands of jobs, they argue that PIPA and SOPA are too far-reaching and would in fact result in further losses for the economy and job market by negatively impacting the tech industry and other user-generated websites.

An analysis conducted by the Congressional Research Service noted concerns raised by companies such as Google and American Express, who say that the private cause of action provisions would result in less online innovation, a protection of outdated business models, and that it would be at the cost of a large amount of lawsuits from rights holders.[11] Google's vice-president and Chief Counsel, Kent Walker, has said that "Legislation should not include a private right of action that would invite suits by 'trolls' to extort settlements from intermediaries or sites who are making good faith efforts to comply with the law."[12]

Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and columnist at Business Insider, has stated that if the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires amendments, the process should be done as "a negotiation between the interested parties, not with a bill written by the content industry's lobbyists and jammed through Congress on a fast track." He further stated that the safe harbor provision of the DMCA is what allows many successful internet companies to exist, so "Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and startups like Dropbox, Kickstarter, and Twilio," who are the "leading exporters and job creators of this time," would be negatively effected, and possibly blacklisted. "They are the golden goose of the economy and we cannot kill the golden goose to protect industries in decline," he further stated.[13]

Global blackout[]

In response to the continued content industry and legislative push to pass SOPA and PIPA, many content-generating websites, search engines, and other websites that oppose PIPA and SOPA are holding a global day of protest on January 18, 2012. The websites will go offline for 24 hours beginning on January 18th, and the inability to use the websites is meant to portray how they possibly be inaccessible if PIPA and SOPA were to become law.

Websites participating in this global blackout, which will effect both American and international visitors to those websites, include Wikipedia, MoveOn, Reddit, BoingBoing, Mozilla, WordPress, TwitPic, and ICanHasCheezBurger websites. Google will also protest on their home page.[14] Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr will not be protesting, however, but they have stated their opposition to the legislation.[15]

Wikipedia's participation has sparked a number of news reports about its involvement, with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales calling the bills a threat to to a free and open internet. Wales further stated that he is "personally asking everyone who cares about freedom and openness on the Internet to contact their Senators and Representatives. One of the things we have learned recently during the Arab spring events is that the Internet is a powerfully effective tool for the public to organize and have their voices heard."[16]

Wikia, also co-founded by Wales, also joined the day of protest, but did not become inaccessible. Instead, Wikia ran a high-impact campaign to raise awareness of the problems associated with the laws and call its users to action on the legislation.[17]

MegaUpload, Department of Justice, and Anonymous[]

The day after the Blackout protests of January 18th, the Department of Justice took down the file-sharing website Megaupload.com, the top site of its nature.[18][19] In retaliation (occurring within the hour), the Internet activist group Anonymous launched a campaign and took down some websites, ones affected including the Department of Justice, the White House, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), The US Copyright Office, and the Universal Music Group (who filed against MegaUpload). While the take-down of MegaUpload is seen largely by anti-SOPA/PIPA supporters as an example of what PIPA could do if passed, many feel concern whether the consequent actions of Anonymous counteract the effect.[20]

Legislative history[]

The PROTECT IP Act was introduced in the Senate on May 12, 2011 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill is a reworking of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which failed to pass the Senate in 2010 after Senator Ron Wyden placed a hold on the legislation.

After PIPA was introduced, it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. The committee, chaired by Senator Leahy, unanimously passed the bill, clearing the way for a vote on the Senate floor. A vote was blocked, however, when Senator Wyden placed a hold on it.

Current status[]

In the face of mounting pressure from industry groups and fellow lawmakers, Senator Leahy announced on January 13, 2012 that he was removing the highly controversial DNS-blocking provision from PIPA. All other DNS requirements were removed as well.[4]

In addition, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), who sponsored SOPA in the House, also removed the DNS blocking provision from his legislation.[4] The White House signalled its opposition to to SOPA and PIPA,[21] and SOPA was subsequently put on indefinite hold by House leaders.[22]However, Lamar Smith now plans to hold a mark-up. [23]

Despite the shelving of SOPA, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) planned to hold a vote on PIPA on January 24, 2012. This was in spite of his concerns over the bill, which he says would create jobs.[24] The Motion Picture Association of America has also stated that in spite of the criticism and White House opposition to the current form, it would continue to push for a modified version of the legislation and looks forward to the White House's involvement, suggesting a longer debate over the bills are still to come.[25]

After the Internet Blackout on January 18, however, a number of PIPA's co-sponsors and other supporters stated their opposition to the bill. Reid still planned to hold a vote on the legislation, but said he would not require Democrats to vote on it, casting doubt on whether or not it could receive the 60 votes necessary to receive a Senate floor vote.[26]

On January 20th, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid then announced he would be postponing the vote on the bill scheduled for the 24th.[27] It is highly unlikely that the bill will return to Congress for the rest of 2012, experts say.[28]


  1. SOPA, controversial online piracy bill, gains support as lobbying intensifies on The Washington Post
  2. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) debate: Why are Google and Facebook against it? on The Washington Post
  3. 3.0 3.1 Protect IP copyright bill faces growing criticism on CNET
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lamar Smith and Patrick Leahy blink: take DNS-blocking out of SOPA and PIPA
  5. Controversial Copyright Bills Would Violate First Amendment–Letters to Congress by Laurence Tribe and Me on Marvin Ammori's website
  6. Should Copyright Be Allowed to Override Speech Rights? on The Atlantic
  7. The "PROTECT IP" Act: COICA Redux on The Electronic Frontier Foundation
  8. Google boss: anti-piracy laws would be disaster for free speech on The Guardian
  9. The Internet’s Intolerable Acts on Slate
  10. Why Wikia Opposes SOPA on the IP and the Internet Wiki
  11. A Legal Analysis of S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act from the Congressional Research Service
  12. Google: don't give private "trolls" Web censorship power
  13. Protecting The Safe Harbors Of The DMCA And Protecting Jobs on Business Insider
  14. Google will protest SOPA using popular home page on CNET
  15. Wikipedia, MoveOn, Reddit, Mozilla shuts down to protest SOPA/PIPA, how to prepare on CBS News
  16. Wikipedia to be blacked out over anti-piracy bill on SFGate
  17. Craig Palmer: SOPA and PIPA Situation Summary on Wikia Community Central
  18. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2012/01/file-sharing-megaupload-shut-down-for-piracy-by-feds.html
  19. http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/justice-department-charges-leaders-of-megaupload-with-widespread-online-copyright-infringement
  20. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57362437-83/anonymous-goes-nuclear-everybody-loses/
  21. White House Will Not Support SOPA, PIPA on The Huffington Post
  22. Putting SOPA on a shelf on Washington Monthly
  23. http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/17/sopa-markup-resume-february/
  24. Harry Reid Says He's Concerned PIPA Will Break The Internet, But We Must Move Forward With It, Because Of 'Jobs' on TechDirt
  25. Bills to Stop Web Piracy Invite a Protracted Battle on The New York Times
  26. Senate Dems released from PIPA, sources say on Politico
  27. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57362675-503544/pipa-sopa-put-on-hold-in-wake-of-protests/
  28. http://mashable.com/2012/01/20/could-sopa-rise-from-the-dead/

External links[]