SOPA/PIPA Blackout Protests Lead Co-Sponsors To Jump Ship
Members of Congress are responding to the protests against SOPA and PIPA by withdrawing their support for the bills.
Today’s decision by Wikipedia and other websites to go dark or take other action in protest of two controversial anti-piracy bills now pending in Congress has led some Members of Congress who were supporting the measures to change their mind:
An Internet blackout Wednesday by Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla and thousands of other sites against two anti-piracy bills in Congress has started to have its desired effect: Co-sponsors of the legislation have changed sides and other lawmakers have called for more debate before any vote.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who was a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act — became the latest lawmaker Wednesday to pull his support. In the House, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), originally a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, pulled his name from the list of sponsors on Tuesday. A spokesman for Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), meanwhile, told the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday that the congressman is also unable to support SOPA as written.
The widespread Internet protest is even bringing new Washington voices into the fray. Mostly silent in the debate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) tweeted Wednesday he doesn’t back the bills.
“I support intellectual property rights, but I oppose SOPA & PIPA,” DeMint tweeted. “They’re misguided bills that will cause more harm than good.”
At least one member of Congress will also join the blackout protest unfolding across the Web. Freshman Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who represents the libertarian wing of the GOP, changed his Facebook profile photo to a logo of the words SOPA and PIPA crossed out and he also disabled his Facebook wall so people cannot post content to it.
“These bills give the federal government unprecedented power to censor Internet content and will stifle the free flow of information and ideas,” Amash wrote in a post on his profile. “Demand that Congress and the president keep the Internet open and free.”
So it would appear that the protests, and the awareness that they are bringing to an issue that Americans who don’t follow these issues regularly, are causing some on Capitol Hill to back away from the bills, at least in their present form. There is already talk this afternoon that the Senate will follow the House and put off consideration of the bill until the defects that the technology community and others have pointed to can be addressed. In either case, it is quite obvious that the smooth sailing that many SOPA/PIPA supporters foresaw for the bills only months ago is not going to happen and that they are going to have to give up on some of their more controversial demands if the bill is going to pass.
Perhaps that’s why Chris Dodd, former Senator and current head of the Motion Picture Association of America, is so upset about today’s protests:
Hollywood’s chief lobbyist lashed out at tech companies for mounting Tuesday night’s planned online blackout to protest proposed anti-piracy legislation that has pitted Southern California movie and music distributors against Silicon Valley Internet corporations.
Motion Picture Assn. of America Chief Executive Chris Dodd, the former Senator from Connecticut, accused technology companies such as Google, Mozilla and Wikipedia of resorting to stunts.
As part of the largest online strike in history, thousands of websites planned to black out their pages or shut down completely starting Tuesday night to protest anti-piracy bills they feel would limit freedom of speech and saddle legitimate websites with onerous legal costs.
But Dodd called the blackout a “dangerous gimmick.”
“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and who use their services,” Dodd said in a statement. “It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.”
The only thing I can conclude from this is that the people who pay Dodd’s salary — the big Hollywood studios principally — are upset by the fact that their effort to ram this flawed bill through Congress has apparently been thwarted by the fact that people are learning about what’s in it thanks to the very Internet they seem to view as an enemy rather than a potential marketplace. Well guys, that’s how the democratic process works.
As I said yesterday, there is a legitimate purpose behind these bills but the form that they are presently in is simply unacceptable. Now that the light of day has been shed upon what Congress was trying to do here perhaps we can all have a real discussion about the importance of protecting both intellectual property rights and the freedom of communication on the Internat and protection of fair use rights.