Many leading internet companies chose Jan. 18 to register their opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, known as SOPA in the House of Representatives and PIPA in the Senate. Both pieces of legislation are widely supported by the entertainment industry.
Until this week, entertainment industry executives thought they had the votes for new federal legislation cracking down on foreign websites that traffic in pirated movies and music and cost them billions.
They lined up support from the powerful pharmaceutical industry and labor unions, and organized an impressive bipartisan coalition in Congress.
Then Silicon Valley struck back and appears to have outflanked Hollywood.
The companies oppose bills designed to curb access and payments to overseas websites that traffic in stolen content or counterfeit goods on the grounds that it could put them in legal peril.
Internet companies have furiously opposed the legislation and have stepped up lobbying efforts in recent months, arguing it would undermine innovation and free speech rights, compromise the functioning of the Internet, and would be ineffective in stopping piracy.
Sites made their views clear without cutting off surfers. Google blacked out the logo on its home page, directing surfers to a page where they could add their names to a petition against the bills.
Opponents of SOPA read like a who’s who of the Internet. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.”
The swelling online opposition persuaded the White House to call over the weekend for lawmakers to remove the legislation’s most controversial provision, which would have required U.S. search engines and payment networks to block access to websites focused on pirated materials. Supporters of the legislation say it would target foreign websites trading in stolen intellectual property, including movies and music. Critics say it would unfairly penalize legitimate websites too, such as Google, Craigslist and even other online services including USENET newsgroups.
In short, The proposed infrastructure would damage the security of the Internet and allow the government extensive censorship abilities.
If you would like to join the protest, visit AmericanCensorship.org for instructions on contacting your Senator. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more information on this and other issues central to your freedom online.