While he seems to be all alone in Washington, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says that he will fight to the bitter end against the PROTECT IP Act, a controversial online copyright bill backed by Hollywood movie studios, the Chamber of Commerce, pharmaceutical makers and a group of 40 senators. Wyden feels so strongly that the bill is bad news for Americans that he has promised to filibuster the PROTECT IP Act if it reaches the Senate floor without serious changes by the end of the year.
“I’ve already announced a public hold, put it in the Congressional Record and — in its current form — I will fight this every step of the way,” Wyden told POLITICO this week.
The PROTECT IP Act hopes to give government agencies the power to shut down access to foreign websites that carry pirated movies, knock-off merchandise and fake prescription drugs. The bill is sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). He said this week that he isn’t worried by the threat of a hold on the bill and predicts that it will pass in the Senate. He noted that his patent reform bill, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, passed and was signed into law earlier this year, had to overcome a hold before getting to the floor.
“We’re ready to go, and we’ve got a huge number of bipartisan supporters on it,” Leahy said. “It will certainly pass the Senate once we get it up.”
But Wyden’s threat is a serious one that he plans to follow through on. Last year, he vowed to block a similar version of the PROTECT IP Act, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. He placed a hold on the bill that helped stop it from reaching the floor for a vote in the final days of the 2010 congressional session.
Wyden is the only senator who has publicly said he would fight the bill. In addition to Leahy, 39 senators (16 Republicans, 22 Democrats and one independent) have signed on to co-sponsor the PROTECT IP Act.
According to Politico, staff from New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office has started discussions between Leahy’s and Wyden’s offices to figure out what their concerns are and how to iron them out so the bill can be passed.
While Leahy may have 41 other senators and Hollywood on his side, Wyden has aligned himself with tech companies and ISP's who will be forced to enforce the law online. Wyden believes the bill would deter future innovation on the internet, would not give the accused due process of the law, and would cause trouble for ISP's forced to comply with court orders pursued and obtained by the Justice Dept.
“The question is, are we going to [do] something smart about it, or are we going to do something that’s going to cause a lot of collateral damage?” Wyden said.
An interesting question. Another question is can one man stop a bill when so many forces lined up against him? If anyone can, it's probably Wyden.