CNN: SOPA and PIPA postponed indefinitely after protests
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- When the entire Internet gets angry, Congress takes notice. Both the House and the Senate on Friday backed away from a pair of controversial anti-piracy bills, tossing them into limbo and throwing doubt on their future viability.
The Senate had been scheduled to hold a proceedural vote next week on whether to take up the Protect IP Act (PIPA) -- a bill that once had widespread, bipartisan support. But on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was postponing the vote "in light of recent events."
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives said it is putting on hold its version of the bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The House will "postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said in a written statement.
The moves came after several lawmakers flipped their position on the bills in the wake of widespread online and offline protests against them.
Tech companies, who largely oppose the bills, mobilized their users this week to contact representatives and speak out against the legislation. Sites including Wikipedia and Reddit launched site blackouts on January 18, while protesters hit the streets in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) drew more than 7 million signatures for an anti-SOPA and PIPA petition that it linked on its highly trafficked homepage.
The tide turned soon after the protest, and both bills lost some of their Congressional backers.
"I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns," Smith said Friday in a prepared statement. "It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves."
PIPA and SOPA aim to crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access and services to sites that host or facilitate the trading of pirated content.
Backed by media companies, including CNNMoney parent Time Warner, the bills initially seemed on the fast track to passage. PIPA was approved unanimously by a Senate committee in May.
But when the House took up its own version of the bill, SOPA, tech companies began lobbying heavily in opposition -- an effort that culminated in this week's demonstrations.
Reid hinted that PIPA may not be dead yet, saying: "There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved."
Meanwhile, alternative legislation has also been proposed. A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) on January 18 -- the same day as the Wikipedia site blackout.
Among other differences, OPEN offers more protection than SOPA would to sites accused of hosting pirated content. It also beefs up the enforcement process. It would allow digital rights holders to bring cases before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent agency that handles trademark infringement and other trade disputes.
California Republican Darrell Issa introduced OPEN in the House, and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden introduced the Senate version. OPEN's backers had posted the draft legislation online and invited the Web community to comment on and revise the proposal.
Soon after SOPA and PIPA were tabled, Issa released a statement cheering "supporters of the Internet" for their protest efforts.
He wrote: "Over the last two months, the intense popular effort to stop SOPA and PIPA has defeated an effort that once looked unstoppable but lacked a fundamental understanding of how Internet technologies work."
Anonymous strikes back after feds shut down piracy hub Megaupload
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In one of the U.S. government's largest anti-piracy crackdowns ever, federal agents on Thursday arrested the leaders of and shut down Megaupload.com, a popular hub for illegal media downloads.
Hours later, Megaupload's fans turned the table on the feds. "Hacktivist" collective Anonymous said it set its sights on the U.S. Department of Justice and apparently knocked the agency's website offline.
"We are having website problems, but we're not sure what it's from," a DOJ spokeswoman told CNNMoney.
The DOJ website glitches came soon after various Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous took aim at the agency.
Anonymous's favorite weapon for these attacks is what's called a "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attack, which directs a flood of traffic to a website and temporarily crashes it by overwhelming its servers. It doesn't actually involve any hacking or security breaches.
"One thing is certain: EXPECT US! #Megaupload" read one tweet from AnonOps that went out mid-afternoon.
One hour later, the same account tweeted a victory message: "Tango down! http://universalmusic.com & http://www.justice.gov// #Megaupload"
It was the largest attack ever by Anonymous, according to an Anonymous representative, with 5,635 people using a networking tool called a "low orbit ion cannon." A LOIC is software tool that aims a massive flood of traffic at a targeted site.
Universal Music's website also went down Thursday afternoon. The music company had been locked in a legal battle with Megaupload over a YouTube video that featured many of Universal Music's signed artists promoting Megaupload's site.
The websites of the Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of America went down Thursday afternoon as well. On Twitter, AnonOps -- one of the main communications channels for the leaderless Anonymous collective -- took credit for the crashes.
An RIAA spokesman confirmed that the organization's website was intermittently offline. But he cast the attack as a minor hiccup.
"The fact that a couple of sites might have been taken down is really ancillary to the significant news today that the Justice Department brought down one of the world's most notorious file sharing hubs," he said.
By Friday morning, all but one of the subjects of Anonymous' attack were back online -- including the FBI's website, Warner Music Group and the U.S. Copyright Office. Only Universal Music remained unavailable, as the company took the site down for "maintenance."
A piracy crackdown: The Anonymous attack came soon after the DOJ announced the indictment of seven individuals connected to Megaupload for allegedly operating an "international organized criminal enterprise responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of copyrighted works."
Authorities said the operation had generated more than $175 million in illegal profits through advertising revenue and the sale of premium memberships.
According to the indictment, Megaupload, which launched in 2005, was once the 13th most visited website on the Internet, serving as a hub for distribution of copyrighted television shows, images, computer software and video games.
The site's popular MegaVideo subsidiary was widely known in tech circles for its copious selection of pirated content, including recent movies and episodes of hit TV shows.
Four of those indicted were arrested Thursday in Auckland, New Zealand, at the request of the U.S. Three others remain at large.
The individuals indicted are citizens of New Zealand, Germany, Slovakia and the Netherlands. No U.S. citizens were named. However, Megaupload has servers in Ashburn, Va., and Washington D.C., which prompted the Virginia-based investigation.
To shut down Megaupload, federal authorities executed 20 search warrants in eight countries, seizing 18 domain names and $50 million worth of assets, including servers located in Virginia, Washington, the Netherlands and Canada.
The news comes as lawmakers have turned their attention to anti-piracy legislation. Protests erupted both online and offline this week against two bills currently under consideration in Congress: the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's Protect IP Act (PIPA).
The bills are aimed at cracking down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host or facilitate the trading of pirated content. But the legislation has created a divide between tech giants, who say the language is too broad, and large media companies, who say they are losing millions each year to rampant online piracy.