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Would SOPA and PIPA bills 'break Internet?' Anti-piracy measure being revised.

On the verge of passage in Congress, the SOPA and PIPA bills targeting online piracy have been bounced back for revision in the face of a public outcry and high-profile Internet protests.

By Staff writer / January 18, 2012

A blackout landing page is displayed on a laptop computer screen inside the 'Anti-Sopa War Room' at the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco.

Eric Risberg/AP

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Call it – the Internet strikes back.

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Anti-piracy legislation that critics argue would not only violate First Amendment free-speech rights, but could even “break the Internet” by messing up its internal addressing system if it became law, has been bounced back for a rewrite.

Powerful supporters, including lawmakers, the movie and music industries, and the US Chamber of Commerce had anticipated a huge victory as their legislation to combat online piracy swept to passage in Congress this month.

Instead, they are now scrambling in backrooms around Capitol Hill working to overhaul major portions of the legislation to mollify critics. The House version – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – appears to be temporarily shelved, while backers of the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) say it could be revisited this month.

But the legislation’s opponents don't seem to be letting up on getting their message out. A wave of protest has been building for months, but Wednesday backers of several popular web sites were visibly dramatizing the "censorship" they say SOPA and PIPA would cause.

On Wikipedia, users see a brief flash of the entry they were seeking – then a black screen descends, obscuring the site. Social site Reddit is closed, too, offering instead a breakdown of arguments in opposition to the bills. Mozilla, too, is redirecting its web pages to an "action page" and Google's search homepage is blacking out the Google logo.

Still other sites like Twitter, whose backers also oppose the legislation, said their services would not stop because it would harm businesses that use the service.

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, argued in a Sunday debate on MSNBC that the proposed bills were overreaching and “the equivalent of being angry and trying to take action against Ford just because a Mustang was used in a bank robbery.”

Also over the weekend, White House advisers implied in blog posts that a veto could be in order for any such legislation. "While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

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