Don’t mess with a determined Internet…
Rarely does a coordinated campaign get through to our representatives in Washington DC. But Wednesday’s Internet protest efforts seems to have made a real difference.
At least 18 senators have dropped their support for the controversial Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the wake of Wednesday’s online outrage-via-outage, seven of whom were former co-sponsors.
How did we get here? The Internet as you know it could change forever if Congress has its way. Two bills — nicknamed SOPA and PIPA — have the most potential to curb Internet freedom in ways you only thought possible in countries to the north of South Korea. The one time we need a do-nothing Congress, instead we end up with know-nothing politicians who love to kill a good buzz.
The two controversial anti-piracy bills are called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) the Protect IP Act (PIPA). They’re aimed at curbing copyright infringement and intellectual property theft, but they take draconian measures in doing so, measures that would drastically change the way you waste time on the Internet. The bills would limit offending sites’ visibility on Google and other directories and block ad sales and PayPal transactions. Basically, if you host copyrighted content, no one will be able to find you and you won’t be able to make money. Click here to find out *exactly* what will happen.
So the Internet fought back. On Wednesday, beginning at the stroke of midnight, Wikipedia shut down the site for 24 hours in protest. Jimmy Wales’ online encyclopedia wasn’t alone — Reddit shut down for 12 hours, TwitPic, BoingBoing, Mozilla, WordPress.org, and thousands of other sites went dark in protest of the bill that critics say will violate the First Amendment and “splinter the Internet’s architecture.”
Behemoths like Tumblr, which hosts a sea of blogs containing potentially troublesome mp3s, videos and images, have been voicing their outrage since November. Google, Yahoo!, Twitter and eBay are all opposed (but didn’t black out). A Reddit campaign convinced domain registry GoDaddy and even Rep. Paul Ryan to drop support for the bill. House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa called the legislation “flawed” and said the House would “build consensus” before pursuing it further. Even President Obama, who usually doesn’t wade into messes early in a fight, said he wouldn’t support it.
After Wednesday’s protestation, the likelihood of SOPA and/or PIPA passing decreased tremendously. “A whip count by OpenCongress found 35 supporters (including 34 co-sponsors), 18 opponents, and 12 more Senators leaning toward opposition. About 35 Senators have not committed to a position, perhaps reluctant to do so for fear of angering either deep-pocketed Hollywood campaign contributors or their constituents back home,” Ars Technica reported. It’s unclear how much support fell off the SOPA bandwagon, but it doesn’t look good for the bill when House Speaker John Boehner says it’s “pretty clear to many of us that there is a lack of consensus at this point.”
Here’s a list of the 18 senators who jumped off the PIPA bandwagon, mostly Republicans: Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Scott Brown (R-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), David Vitter (R-LA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
You may not know this, but former Senator Chris Dodd is now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America. On Tuesday, he issued a statement calling these anti-SOPA blackouts “irresponsible,” accusing them of publican relations chicanery. “A so-called ‘blackout’ is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals,” he wrote in a statement. “It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this ‘blackout’ to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”
SOPA is not dead, contrary to what has been reported. It’s like the Rasputin of bills — it just won’t die. The latest word is that it will come back for mark-up in February. And a vote on PIPA in the Senate is not far off either. It’s time to pay very close attention.
So who in hell is still defending SOPA?
Besides groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, Rupert Murdoch has been hilariously vocal about his support. The NewsCorp codger took to Twitter Saturday, blasting Google for “[streaming] movies free, [selling] advts around them” and Obama for having “thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.”
If you have 14 minutes to spare, watch Fozzie Bear in human form deliver this epic rant:
And here are two more great backgrounders to watch as well: