On May 12, Senator Patrick Leahy (D. VT) introduced "S. 968:
Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of
Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP)." Referred to the
Judiciary Committee, May 26 hearings were held. Debate's scheduled
for next week.
On October 26, Rep. Lamar Smith (R. TX) introduced "HR 3261: Stop
Online Piracy Act (SOPA): To promote prosperity, creativity,
entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of US
property, and for other purposes" Referred to the House Judiciary
Committee, markup continues.
Leahy, Smith, and congressional supporters claim the measures
protect corporate investments against online piracy. In fact,
they're about censorship and subverting Internet freedom.
If enacted, Internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, and
other information location tools will have to block user access to
sites accused (rightly or wrongly) of very loosely defined copyright
In other words, they'll blacklist and shut them down arbitrarily to
silence them. Media giants will have unprecedented powers. So will
Congress and the administration. Internet freedom will be
jeopardized. So will a free and open society.
Provisions empower the Attorney General to cut off access and
funding for alleged "parasite" foreign and domestic sites. An
Internet czar will decide if US interests are harmed. Courts will
enforce police state rulings.
Both bills are so deeply flawed, they can't be fixed. Killing them
is the only option.
Sopastrike.com's web site headlines, "WEB GOES ON STRIKE! saying:
"January 18, 2012 is the largest online protest in history, to stop
the Internet censorship bills, SOPA & PIPA. Join in by blacking
out your site and urging everyone you can reach to contact Congress
With many others, Wikipedia's "blacking out the English (site) for
24 hours, beginning at midnight January 18, Eastern Time." During
the blackout, information on SOPA and PROTECT IP will stay
Google's site headlined, "End Piracy, Not Liberty," saying:
SOPA and PROTECT IP will "censor the Internet and slow economic
growth in the US."
"Tell Congress: Don't censor the Web."
It also urges readers to sign a petition, expressing opposition to
January 18's just the beginning. On January 23, a day of action's
planned when the Senate reconvenes. Despite growing opposition,
supporters want quick action to pass PROTECT IP, SOPA's companion
The Battle to Save Internet Freedom
On January 16, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) headlined,
"How PIPA and SOPA Violate White House Principles Supporting Free
Speech and Innovation," saying:
Despite alleged White House opposition, "the fight is still far from
over." Senate debate begins next week. Expect House action to follow
soon. In fact, chief SOPA sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith (R. TX), said
markup will proceed in February.
Internet freedom's on the line. So aren't First Amendment rights
without which all others are at risk. EFF explained worrisome
(1) Alleged copyright infringement lets government suppress
information it wants censored.
(2) ISPs, search engines, and other information tools will be forced
(3) Web sites will have to "block anything from a user post about
browser add-ons like DeSopa, to a simple list of IP addresses of
(4) Vague language gives authorities broad discretion.
(5) Investments in online startups will be affected.
(6) Open source software will be decimated.
(7) A "vigilante" provision grants immunity to ISPs for
over-blocking "innocent users or block sites voluntarily with no
judicial oversight at all." As a result, abuse potential is
incalculable. Moreover, intermediaries only need show "good faith"
and act on what they deem "credible evidence."
(8) Copyright holders will be able to get unopposed court orders to
cut off foreign sites from payment processors and advertisers.
(10) The Attorney General will be authorized to block domain name
services and be able to de-list sites from search engines. According
to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, it "criminalize(s) linking and the
fundamental structure of the Internet itself."
The same provision applies to payment processors and advertisers.
In addition, heavy litigation costs will deter falsely accused sites
from contesting a guilty until proved innocent dilemma effectively.
They could go broke trying.
As a result, SOPA and PROTECT IP will "drastically change the way we
use the Internet (for the worse), and punish millions of innocent
users" who never thought about copyright infringement. According to
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian:
These bills are "the equivalent of being angry and trying to take
action against Ford just because a Mustang was used in a bank
"These bills must be stopped," says EFF, "if we want to protect free
speech and innovation on the web."
"Please take action now and tell your Congressional representative
you oppose the blacklist bills."
Do it easily on EFF's blacklist.eff.org.
EFF’s one-page guide about the blacklist bills also provides
relevant information to review and share with others.
Heavyweights Face Off on Both Sides
Powerful interests represent both sides. Opponents include Google,
Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, You Tube, Linkedin,
Mozilla, Roblox, Reddit, the Wikimedia Foundation, EFF, the ACLU,
Human Rights Watch, the libertarian CATO Institute, the Library
Copyright Alliance (including the American Library Association), and
dozens of others.
Virtually the entire tech industry united in opposition, including
Adobe, Apple, Dell, Electronic Arts, Intel, Intuit, McAfee,
Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony (excluding Sony Music and Picture),
Sybase, Symantec, and many others.
Some initially offered support, then softened positions. In a joint
statement, they said:
"Valid and important questions have been raised about the(se)
bill(s). As (they) now (stand, they) could sweep in more than just
truly egregious actors." Redefinitions of who can be prosecuted are
needed. "Unintended consequences must be avoided."
"Due process, free speech, and privacy are rights (too important to)
be compromised." The Business Software Alliance (BSA) "has long
stood against filtering or monitoring the Internet. All of these
concerns should be duly considered and addressed."
Supporters include News Corp's Rupert Murdoch, AFL-CIO,
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Chamber of
Commerce, Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry
Association of America, National Association of Broadcasters,
McGraw-Hill, Macmillan US, other book publishers, Viacom, other
companies with cable, film and music interests, trademark dependent
companies like Nike and L'Oreal. ASCAP, Caterpillar, Ford, Comcast,
the NBA, NCAA, MLB, Netflix, Philip Morris, Pfizer, Time Warner,
Wal-Mart, and many others.
In over 90,000 local groups, Meetup has more than 10 million people
involved. Its web site headlines, "Meetups mobilize against PIPA and
The 20,000-member strong New York Tech Meetup (NYTM) "declared an
emergency (January 18) Meetup" outside the New York offices of
Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
NYTM's "calling on every concerned resident to take to the streets.
In solidarity, the Hackers and Founders Meetup of the Bay area
scheduled their own Meetup to rally" support.
Other actions will follow.
On January 17, Save the Internet.com headlined "Momentum Builds
Against SOPA and PIPA," saying:
"Millions of Internet users have succeeded in slowing down the
Hollywood-funded momentum of the bills." After initially staying
largely silent, the major media "finally w(oke) up."
A Final Comment
A White House statement tried having it both ways, saying:
"We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression,
increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative
At the same time, it said "online piracy is a real problem that
harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers
of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative
and innovative companies and entrepreneurs."
It also "call(ed) on all sides to work together to pass sound
legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders
new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond US
It was typical Obama, feigning opposition while supporting the
bills' core provisions.
At issue is a free and open Internet, the last frontier of free
expression. At this stage, it's very much up for grabs.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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