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Did protests of SOPA and other antipiracy legislation work?

It was an eventful week for Internet-related antipiracy legislation, to say the least. After threatening for weeks, Internet giants such as Wikipedia and Google participated in a day-long “blackout” Wednesday in protest of the House of Representative’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation and its Senate counterpart, PROTECT IP.

But did it work? After all, it’s not like the sites were completely shut down for 24 hours. Users could still access most of the sites participating in the protest; they just had to bypass literature outlining why the protesting sites equate SOPA and PIPA compliance with Internet censorship.

It definitely brought more attention to the controversial legislation, if nothing else. The blacked-out sites encouraged users to contact their legislators to protest the bills, and many did. Following the blackout, approximately 10 senators and nearly 20 House members announced their opposition to the antipiracy legislation as written, according to the New York Times. Among the flipped was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), one of the co-sponsors of PROTECT IP.

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he was delaying a PROJECT IP vote scheduled for Jan. 24. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) also announced a postponement of moving forward with SOPA antipiracy legislation “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” To help create this wider agreement, Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), has called for a summit meeting between Internet companies and content distributors, in an effort to reach a compromise.

Until then, the protests keep coming: After the federal government shut down the website Megaupload and charged seven people with Internet piracy, the protest group Anonymous threw its weight around, briefly attacking and shutting down the websites of the Department of Justice, the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America.

So, it’s clear that the online antipiracy legislation fight is far from over. Legislators need to strike the right balance between the needs of critics who contend the legislation is unconstitutional, and the rights of those who want to protect their intellectual property.

Both sides (each with huge influence, by the way) have a valid argument designed to protect the way they do business. It will be interesting to see how legislators respond.

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