In the face of withering opposition, Senate leaders have postponed a vote on the Protect IP Act that was scheduled for Tuesday.
"In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), in a statement.
"There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved," Reid wrote. "Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices."
The decision to put off the vote is the latest and most decisive sign yet that Congressional support for antipiracy legislation backed by the film and music industries has collapsed. If the opponents haven't completely succeeded in killing PIPA and a similar bill in the House called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), they are pretty darn close.
Reid did not offer a date for when the bill might again come up for a vote. He said he was optimistic that PIPA supporters and the growing number of opponents could "reach a compromise in the coming weeks." But any compromise at this point would leave the legislation with very few teeth.
Both PIPA and SOPA were designed to speed up the process of cutting off access to foreign-based Web sites that traffick in counterfeit or pirated materials. If either were passed in their original forms, the government could order an Internet service provider to shut off access in this country to the sites as well as force credit card and advertising companies to cut ties with the accused.
But in the past month, opponents, who claimed the bills threatened free speech and due process of law, have mounted an unprecedented campaign to block passage of the bills even though they enjoyed wide bipartisan support.
The tech sector showcased immense power to generate action by the public. Petitions were circulated, the bills were denounced in Web stories and blogs. This week saw numerous Web services, including Google and Wikipedia, blacken out parts of their sites to protest the bills. The grassroots efforts by the tech companies overwhelmed their opponents.
Amid a public outcry against the legislation, numerous lawmakers started dropping support for the bills, including the president of the United States. The vote scheduled for SOPA this month was also delayed. While Rep. Lamar Smith, one of the bill's sponsors, has said a vote will happen sometime next month, that bill's chances of passing appear to be low.
Update 8:11 a.m. PT: The House Judiciary Committee has indefinitely postponed further work on SOPA "until there is wider agreement on a solution."