The internet went dark last Wednesday in a successful online protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that were being ramrodded through the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. These bills were intended to provide more protections to copyright and IP owners against foreign sites associated with piracy. BUT in reality they would have allowed for the complete shut-down of US websites that contain possible copyright-infringing content or are involved in digital file sharing (think Google, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, WordPress…) – without a trial or hearing.
The scope of the protest was unprecedented and according to www.SopaStrike.com more than 115 thousand sites (including Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, and Yahoo to name a few) participated, 10 millon signatures were collected and more than 3 million emails sent to members of congress. See the infographic on the side.
Why did so many take action against these bills? Perhaps the Wikkimedia Foundation said it best:
We think everyone should have access to educational material on a wide range of subjects, even if they can’t pay for it. We believe in a free and open Internet where information can be shared without impediment. We believe that new proposed laws like SOPA and PIPA, and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States, don’t advance the interests of the general public.
The protest was the culmination of several months of effort by hundreds of companies and organizations who came together to stop the legislation. It was evident that the letters, calls and petitions were getting through and on Saturday, Jan 14th, the White House issued a statement saying the President would “not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” This was a step in the right direction but the statement still left the door open for revised versions of the bills to be passed.
The response was overwhelming and by Friday Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tx), the bill’s chief sponsor, was forced to pull SOPA “until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also postponed its Senate counterpart, PIPA, “in light of recent events.” Perhaps they both have a much better understanding of how powerful the Internet could be and just how protective of our freedom and free-speech rights a motivated American voting public can be.
This could hardly be considered a victory of regular citizens against big corporate interests (Its reported that the likes of News Corp, the NFL, Disney, Time Warner, Viacom and Sony spent close to $91million on lobbying efforts for both bills while big companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook etc. protested against it). But It does show that average citizens can make an impact and stop damaging legislation that seeks to benefit corporate special interests.
Congratulations America there is hope for us yet!
Other SOPA Blackout News:
- Gawker has a hilarious article on the possibilities presented by a Wikkipedia blackout. Think, homework that forces students to consult real sources and lies, lots and lots of lies…
- Daily Tech shares the scoop on SOPA author, Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who himself infringed on the bill’s proposed legislation.
- Gizmodo runs down the unfortunate twitter trail left by high school students who had homework due.
Did you take action against SOPA and PIPA? You we’re in good company if you did and we want to hear your story. Check out the pics below to see some examples of the protest.