Texans' Walkout Emperils Piracy Bill


An anti-piracy policy rewrite in Texas may not survive the session, but it has nothing to do with opposition by Internet freedom groups or the Consumer Electronics Association.

The bill could become part of the collateral damage caused by the bizarre walkout by the Lone Star state's Democrats, who fled the capitol to hole up in Oklahoma rather than vote on a redistricting bill that would further strengthen Republicans.

The Democrats also oppose the conservative social agenda promoted by the party in power.

Under Texas law, bills must be introduced in the House and sent to the Senate by May 15. The walkout quashed the House-redistricting bill and observers said there weren't enough votes in the Senate to move it forward there.

"It's been bizarre and interesting," said Kathy Grant, vice president of government relations for the Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association. The anti-piracy bill was out of committee in the Senate, but the walkout "effectively stops the House version."

The legislature will move forward on other matters now that redistricting has died for the session, but there's a decreased likelihood of making progress elsewhere, Grant said. Lobbyists have been tracking bills, seeking amendments to make legislation more industry-friendly.

But with the rush to return to business after the Democrats return, individual bills may disappear, only to resurface as amendments in other legislation.

"It will be a big challenge" to keep up with all the changes, Grant said.

The anti-piracy bill would extend protections to other cable-delivered products, such as Internet service, and stiffen penalties for signal thieves. Similar bills were introduced in several other states, where the Motion Picture Association of America supports cable's efforts. But the bills have drawn opposition from CEA, academics and the ACLU, which call the bills overly broad.