Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska announced today that he is removing his name as a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”), which is one of two highly contested bills (along with the Protect IP Act, or “PIPA”) at the center of today’s internet backlash.
“Thank you for your concern about #SOPA,” Terry said on his Facebook page. “I have asked to have my name removed from the bill. However, the economic impact of IP theft is real and a solution is needed.”
A Terry spokesperson said that waves of negative sentiment toward the bill from free speech and civil rights groups and technology companies, among others, helped Terry to conclude that SOPA, as currently drafted, isn’t the solution.
Terry’s decision was first reported this morning by the Omaha World-Herald. In a phone interview this afternoon, Brad Schweer, a legislative director of Terry’s office, said that Terry listened to his constituents.
“The whole netroots firestorm was something that we didn’t foresee,” Schweer said, adding that the call volume has increased as sites have gone dark today in protest of SOPA.
At the time Terry co-sponsored the bill in October, Schweer said it sounded like a solution to a problem, a “good path forward to help prevent billions of dollars that are stolen out of the economy via these rogue websites where this piracy’ taking place.”
“The whole netroots firestorm was something that we didn’t foresee,” – Brad Schweer, Sen. Lee Terry’s office
Schweer continued: “Unfortunately, at that time, a lot of the tech companies, payment servicers, ISPs, they weren’t coming in to talk to us for one reason or another as this was being prepared. So we weren’t necessary aware of a lot of these concerns, you know, the DNS concerns that have people obviously, and rightly so, riled up.”
The current draft of SOPA is on hold right now but is scheduled to undergo further review in February. According to the World-Herald story from this morning, Terry’s name was expected to be officially removed from the draft by the end of the day.
Schweer concluded our interview looking to the next stage. “As internet users are seeing these sites blocked out today and, you know, getting engaged,” he said, “I would ask them to ask questions like, ‘How should congress restrict access to these rogue websites?’ “
Saddle Creek Records
When asked if Terry received constituent calls in support of SOPA, Schweer said Saddle Creek Records of Omaha was one organization that expressed support. “The content creators in the community, regardless of which community it is, are going to support some sort of solution to this problem,” he said.
But following the publication today of a World-Herald story on SOPA that mentioned Saddle Creek’s support of the bill, the company corresponded with the article’s author, Ross Boettcher, on Twitter. Later, Boettcher removed the fact from the story and issued this update:
— Ross Boettcher (@rossboettcher) January 18, 2012
Saddle Creek Records also confirmed its position today on its news page: “Saddle Creek does not support SOPA.”
Sen. Jerry Moran
Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas (left), the co-sponsor of the OPEN Act, an alternative to SOPA and PIPA, spoke at Think Big Partners‘ Gigabit Challenge in Kansas City today, reaffirming his commitment to fight the two bills.
“In our opinion, the damage that SOPA could cause is so great for entrepreneurs,” Moran said. “They will not be able to innovate like they do now. There has to be a better way to solve this online problem.”
For more on Moran, see Think Big Partners’ blog: “Senator Jerry Moran Announces his Stop SOPA Position at Gigabit Challenge Finale“
Image credit: Screenshots from Sen. Lee Terry’s Facebook page and saddle-creek.com and photo of Sen. Moran from thinkbigpartners.com