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U.S. Senate chief postpones vote on anti-piracy bill

Friday, January 20, 2012 | 10:42 a.m. CST; updated 11:58 a.m. CST, Friday, January 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday he will postpone a vote on online piracy legislation he had scheduled for next week after a storm of protest.

Reid, a Democrat, said he was putting off a procedural vote set for Tuesday "in light of recent events." Those events included a petition drive by Google that attracted more than 7 million participants and a one-day blackout by the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The Protect Intellectual Property Act has strong support from the entertainment industry and other businesses that lose billions of dollars annually to intellectual property theft and online sales of counterfeit products. But it also has strong opposition from Internet-related companies that argue the bill would lead to over-regulation and censorship of the Internet.

Reid has also seen at least a half-dozen senators who sponsored the bill announce they now oppose it.

Reid said counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars every year, and "there is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved." He said he was optimistic about reaching a compromise in the coming weeks.

The Senate bill would allow the Justice Department and copyright holders to seek court orders against foreign websites accused of copyright infringement. It would bar online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as credit card companies from doing business with an alleged violator. It also would forbid search engines from linking to such sites.

The Tuesday vote was on whether to move the legislation to the Senate floor for debate. With the recent desertions and a statement Thursday by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that it is too early to consider the bill, it appeared supporters lacked the 60 votes needed to advance the measure in the 100-member chamber.

In the House, the Judiciary Committee is considering similar legislation, with debate slated for next month.


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