Jan. 18, 2012 at 3:18 PM ET
Updated at 9 p.m. ET
As websites from Wikipedia to Wired went dark Wednesday to protest anti-piracy bills, some co-sponsors of the legislation in Congress said they're withdrawing their support for the bills.
Pulling out were: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who was a co-sponsor of the Protect IP Act in the Senate, as well as Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), John Boozman (R-Arkansas) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), according to the AP; and Reps. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska), Ben Quayle (R-Arizona) and Rep. Rick Larsen, (D-Washington), who said they had been in support of a similar measure in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Speaker of the House John Boehner said Wednesday it was "pretty clear to many of us that there is a lack of consensus at this point."
Bloomberg News also reported that Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) is withdrawing his support of PIPA, as is Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Florida) for SOPA and Rep. Rick Larsen, (D-Washington). Larsen said he heard from many constituents and come to the conclusion that the House and Senate bills "create unacceptable threats to free speech and free access to the Internet," the AP reported.
Meanwhile, Sen. Rubio of Florida, shared his changed stance on his Facebook page:
"I have been a co-sponsor of the Protect IP Act because I believe it’s important to protect American ingenuity, ideas and jobs from being stolen through Internet piracy, much of it occurring overseas through rogue websites in China," Rubio said on Facebook.
Since the bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, "we've heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet," Rubio said. "Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences."
In withdrawing his support, Rubio said he is urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) "to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor" in the coming weeks. "Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet."
The senators' withdrawal is important, although it doesn't by any means quash the legislation, aimed at stopping illegal downloading and streaming of movies and TV shows. Many in the tech world — including giants Google and Facebook — say the legislation would let federal authorities shut down portions of the Internet without due process, and fundamentally alter the Internet's ability to provide a platform for free speech. Wednesday's blackout by many sites is symbolic of the concern and opposition.
Rep. Terry's reasoning for pulling back from SOPA was simple: "After waves of negative sentiment toward the bill from free speech and civil rights groups, technology companies and others, the congressman "has concluded that SOPA, as currently drafted, isn't the solution," a spokesman said on the congressman's website.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and Comcast/NBC Universal. Microsoft publicly opposes SOPA in its current form, while Comcast/NBC Universal is listed as a supporter of SOPA on the House Judiciary Committee website.)
The Associated Press contributed to this report.