POSTED: Friday, January 20, 2012 - 5:58pm
UPDATED: Friday, January 20, 2012 - 5:58pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Bending to an unprecedented torrent of protest from internet users, Congress is backing away from a controversial attempt to curb online piracy.
It started as an effort to halt the rampant theft of movies, songs and other copyrighted artwork,
but would have granted the entertainment industry sweeping powers to crush violators.
The anti-piracy bills known as SOPA and PIPA looked like a sure thing, but House and Senate support evaporated after Wikipedia, Google and other online giants blacked-out their pages on Wednesday and mobilized an army of dissenters.
"We had 15 people a second try to call their members of Congress, 5,000 people a minute signing petitions opposing the legislation, about 3.9 million Tweets," says NetCoalition director Markham Erickson.
The entertainment industry had lobbied for a tool to protect copyrighted works from overseas lawbreakers.
"Even the most severe critics of this bill believe that there's a legitimacy to the issue of foreign criminals stealing American jobs and products," notes Motion Picture Association of America chairman Chris Dodd.
On Thursday U.S. officials succeeded in shutting down MegaUpload, one of the web's most notorious piracy sites and locking up its flashy millionaire owner in New Zealand.
The hacker group known as Anonymous retaliated, attacking a series of U.S. government and entertainment industry web sites.
Neither side believes this is the end of the fight.