Sunday, January 22, 2012
Wiki Blackout Forces Issa to Cancel Internet Hearing
Issa Statement on #SOPA & #PIPA Website Blackouts
WASHINGTON, DC – House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today issued the following statement on the blackouts of many popular websites – including Wikipedia, Craigslist, Google and thousands of others– in response to the serious threats to an open Internet and digital innovation in America posed by theProtect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA):
"The Protect IP Act and SOPA are threats to the openness, freedom, and innovation of the Internet. I applaud the Internet community, including the thousands of blogs and websites that have decided to go dark today, for participating in our democracy and opening up the debate on legislation to the public.
"This unprecedented effort has turned the tide against a backroom lobbying effort by interests that aren't used to being told 'no.' I know suspending and changing access to sites was not necessarily an easy decision, but this is a responsible and transparent exercise of freedom of speech. I applaud those participating in today's protest for their sturdy defense of American innovation, openness and Internet freedom."
The Oversight Committee had originally scheduled a hearing on DNS blocking for today. The hearing was postponed after assurances from Leader Cantor and the removal of DNS blocking provisions from SOPA were made. Even with this alteration, Chairman Issa continues to oppose SOPA as well as PIPA.
Analysis: Legislators should note anti-SOPA feeling
January 17, 2012
Laws should strengthen our freedoms, not undermine them
If there is anybody left on the internet, gamer or otherwise, who is unaware of or unconvinced by the passion within the online community to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or the Protect Intellectual Privacy Act (PIPA), consider this: starting tomorrow at 12 AM EST, Wikipedia will participate in a collaborated global protest of the bills with a worldwide, 24-hour blackout of their entire English-language site.
The blackout is happening even after House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced this week that a Senate hearing relating to SOPA would be indefinitely postponed, halting the legislation’s movement toward a vote in Congress.
Wikipedia will blackout their English-language site for 24 hours
While such announcements have not swayed opponents of the two bills, the lawmakers behind them do appear to be moved, at least somewhat, by the outrage expressed by the online community. Just last week the author of SOPA, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), announced that he would heed industry warnings to change the bill.
In a statement, Smith said, “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision.”
DNS blocking would have given intellectual property holders such as film studios, record labels and game publishers the ability to demand that certain foreign websites suspected of piracy be blocked from US viewers. Most disturbing to SOPA’s critics is that IP holders could block such websites without ever needing the approval of a judge, or without even entering a courtroom.
While this seemed easily opposable for many, including some game companies such as Nintendo, Sony and Bungie, the Entertainment Software Association, of which most top game publishers are members, still supports the bill. Given the outpouring of blatant bashing of SOPA by a vast number of independent gamers, bloggers and developers, this could and likely will be interpreted as a relative disregard toward consumers.
ESA’s support of SOPA also puts members that disagree with the legislation in a tough spot, as they must carefully consider the consequences of contradicting the ESA before going public.
The ESA supports the bill but some members are dissenting
That means that even if Capcom, Konami, SEGA, Square Enix and countless other video game companies do oppose SOPA, they may never contribute to the collective dissonance, lest they create a conflict with the ESA.
The same can be said for media outlets that are owned by holding companies such as Newscorp, which is the world’s second largest media conglomerate and has openly expressed support for SOPA. This is particularly unfortunate since freedom of the press ranks right up there with freedom of speech as an American right that, in a perfect world, would always go unhindered.
Despite the absence of companies stepping forward to oppose SOPA, and despite the fact that the Senate is set to vote on PIPA on January 24, some headway is being made in terms of developing an alternative.
In the statement announcing the postponement of the SOPA senate hearing, a spokesperson for representative Issa said the lawmaker “intends to continue to push for Congress to heed the advice of internet experts on anti-piracy legislation and to push for the consideration and passage of the bipartisan OPEN Act.”
The OPEN act is already garnering far better reviews than either SOPA or PIPA, but they are far from glowing. Where Issa hit the nail on the head is where he called for Congress to “heed the advice of internet experts on anti-piracy legislation.”
Whether legislative ideas come from experts at giant corporations such as Google or Apple, or from independent gamers and bloggers who navigate the most remote reaches of the internet on a daily basis, these are the people that Congress must be collaborating with right now. The internet cannot be regulated in a vacuum of legislators, nor in a vacuum called the United States. A US bill that proposes how to fight global online thievery must be drafted with global consequences in mind.
As Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner indicates on the organization’s announcement of their upcoming blackout, the problem is much bigger than what goes on in Washington.
“SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem,” said Gardner, “All around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms.”
There’s no doubt that piracy is bad. It’s stealing. The trick in fighting online piracy is to find the ways that don’t hurt our freedoms, but strengthen them.
Congress shelves anti-piracy bills
By Roger Yu, USA Today January 20, 2012
The controversial anti-piracy legislation that fueled a wide-scale Internet protest earlier this week is on life support as Senate and House leaders retreated Friday and called for a compromise.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was postponing a vote set for Tuesday "in light of recent events."
"There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved," he said in a statement, referring to the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), a Senate bill that would crack down on websites that violate copyrights and sell counterfeit goods. "I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks."
House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who introduced the House version known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also called for a delay.
"I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy," Smith said in a statement. "It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products."
The bills' advocates, including media companies, movie studios, book publishers and music recording companies, say granting U.S. attorneys general and copyright holders more power to enforce punitive actions against rogue websites would save jobs, ensure consumer safety and increase revenues.
Large and small Internet companies, including Google, Facebook and a wide array of Silicon Valley startups, say current laws are sufficient and that the proposed legislation will lead to censorship and kill the entrepreneurial spirit that fuels technology innovation.
To raise awareness and urge Internet users to call their representatives, thousands of Internet companies staged a blackout Wednesday. Some sites, like Wikipedia and Reddit, shut down for a day, while others placed prominently displayed black banners on their pages. An online petition drive by Google attracted more than 7 million participants.
Their battle over the Internet and the right of content use — as well as the limit of enforcement powers — were illustrated starkly Friday when U.S. and New Zealand officials shut down Megaupload.com, a popular cyberlocker that stored online movies and music, and arrested its founder Kim Dotcom (originally named Kim Schmitz) and some employees.
Hackers responded by taking credit for attacking the Justice Department's website and that of Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America.
That law enforcement officers were able to coordinate internationally to take action demonstrates that current laws targeting copyright violators work, says Art Brodsky, a spokesman for Public Knowledge, a Washington D.C.- based communications and technology advocacy group.
"They roped in New Zealand police and the FBI flew down there," he says. "So why do you need more laws?"
In a statement. Chris Dodd, CEO of the MPAA, said the failure to move forward with the bills will ensure continued copyright infringement, but expressed hope that the delay will start a new round of negotiations.
"As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves," said the former senator from Connecticut. "With today's announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property."
The bills' opponents applauded the bills' postponement Friday.
SOPA-PIPA opponents anticipated changes to the bills after several lawmakers withdrew their support following the protests. But few expected a seemingly indefinite delay to be announced so quickly, Brodsky says.
"We knew it was a possibility, but the better probability was that Reid (and several others) were going to come up with something. We hoped they wouldn't do that," he says. "This is not a bill meant for tinkering. This was a bill that, at minimum, must start from scratch."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who introduced PIPA, said he respects Reid's decision but called out those who backed off from their early support. "The day will come when the senators who forced this move will look back and realize they made a knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem," he said in a statement.
"Somewhere in China today, in Russia today, and in many other countries that do not respect American intellectual property, criminals who do nothing but peddle in counterfeit products and stolen American content are smugly watching how the U.S. Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy."
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., both sponsors of PIPA, withdrew their support a day after the Internet blackout. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also backed out, urging his colleagues on his Facebook page to slow down the process.
There have been some early signs that the bills' sponsors were willing to negotiate. Late last week, Smith said he planned to scrap a provision in the bill that would have allowed copyright holders and law enforcement officials to block foreign websites accused of online piracy.
But the Justice Department and copyright holders could still ask the courts to force advertisers to pull ads from rogue websites, have credit card companies stop payments and get search engines to stop listing such sites.
The fate of the twin bills remains unclear, Brodsky says. Lawmakers could make revisions and bring them back for vote, scrap them entirely or pursue alternative bills.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., joined Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in proposing an alternative anti-piracy bill that is more friendly to technology companies, called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act).
OPEN Act would give power to the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate complaints and, unlike SOPA and PIPA, does not grant copyright holders "a private right of action" to target rogue sites.
Wikipedia Editors Question Site's Planned Blackout
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/wikipedia-editors-question-sites-planned-blackout-15383749 - .TxwuhqXOV2A
By PETER SVENSSON AP Technology Writer
NEW YORK January 18, 2012 (AP)
Can the world live without Wikipedia for a day? The shutdown of one of the Internet's most-visited sites is not sitting well with some of its volunteer editors, who say the protest of anti-piracy legislation could threaten the credibility of their work.
"My main concern is that it puts the organization in the role of advocacy, and that's a slippery slope," said editor Robert Lawton, a Michigan computer consultant who would prefer that the encyclopedia stick to being a neutral repository of knowledge. "Before we know it, we're blacked out because we want to save the whales."
Wikipedia's English-language site shut down at midnight Eastern Standard Time Tuesday and the organization said it would stay down for 24 hours.
Instead of encyclopedia articles, visitors to the site saw a stark black-and-white page with the message: "Imagine a world without free knowledge." It carried a link to information about the two congressional bills and details about how to reach lawmakers.
It is the first time the English site has been blacked out. Wikipedia's Italian site came down once briefly in protest to an Internet censorship bill put forward by the Berlusconi government. The bill did not advance.
FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2011
The shutdown adds to a growing body of critics who are speaking out against the legislation. But some editors are so uneasy with the move that they have blacked out their own user profile pages or resigned their administrative rights on the site to protest. Some likened the site's decision to fighting censorship with censorship.
One of the site's own "five pillars" of conduct says that Wikipedia "is written from a neutral point of view." The site strives to "avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them."
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales argues that the site can maintain neutrality in content even as it takes public positions on issues.
"The encyclopedia will always be neutral. The community need not be, not when the encyclopedia is threatened," he tweeted.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which administers the site, announced the blackout late Monday, after polling its community of volunteer contributors and editors and getting responses from 1,800 of them. The protest is aimed at the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act under consideration in the Senate.
"If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States," the foundation said.
Both bills are designed to crack down on sales of pirated American products overseas, and they have the support of the film and music industry. Among the opponents are many Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, eBay and AOL. They say the bills would hurt the industry and infringe on free-speech rights.
Social news website Reddit.com is shutting down for 12 hours on Wednesday, but most companies are staying up. Google Inc.'s home page linked to a petition urging Congress: "Don't censor the Web."
Dick Costollo, CEO of Twitter, said he opposes the legislation as well, but shutting down the service was out of the question.
"Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish," Costollo tweeted.
Since Wikimedia depends on a small army of volunteers who create and update articles, it's particularly concerned about a lack of exemptions in the bills for sites where users might contribute copyrighted content. Today, it has no obligation under U.S. law except removing that content if a copyright holder complains. But under the House version of the bill, it could be shut down unless it polices its own pages.
The plans for the protest were moving forward even though the bill's prospects appeared to be dimming. On Saturday, Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, said the bill would not move to the House floor for a vote unless consensus is reached. However, Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, said work on the bill would resume next month.
The White House raised concerns over the weekend, pledging to work with Congress to battle piracy and counterfeiting while defending free expression, privacy and innovation in the Internet. The administration signaled it might use its veto power, if necessary.
That the bill seems unlikely to pass is another reason Lawton opposes the blackout.
"I think there are far more important things for the organization to focus aside from legislation that isn't likely to pass anyway," he said. He's been contributing to Wikipedia for eight years.
Danny Chia, another contributor to the site, said he had mixed feelings about the blackout. The neutrality applies to the content, but a lot of people interpret it as being about the site as a whole, said the Los Altos, Calif., software engineer.
In an online discussion, others raised the same point about the blackout: Appearances matter, and if the audience sees Wikipedia taking a stand, it might not believe the articles are objective, either.
Wikipedia has seen a small decline in participation, from a peak of 100,000 active editors a year ago to about 90,000 now. Wikimedia Foundation blames this mainly on outdated editing tools, and believes it can get the number growing again with software upgrades.
A Q&A on Contested Internet Anti-Piracy Bills
By JIM ABRAMS Associated Press
WASHINGTON January 19, 2012 (AP)
Online piracy costs U.S. copyright owners and producers billions of dollars every year, but legislation in Congress to block foreign Internet thieves and swindlers has met strong resistance from high-tech companies, spotlighted by Wikipedia's protest blackout Wednesday, warning of a threat to Internet freedom.
House and Senate bills that once seemed to be on a path toward approval now face a rockier future. House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday it was "pretty clear to many of us that there is a lack of consensus at this point."
Amid the high-tech campaign against the bills, several lawmakers came out in opposition. At least four Senate Republicans who had previously cosponsored the Senate bill — Orrin Hatch of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas and Charles Grassley of Iowa — issued statements Wednesday saying they were withdrawing their support. Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland last week said that, after listening to constituent concerns, he could not vote for the Senate bill as it is currently written.
On the House side, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., issued a statement that he had heard from many of his constituents and had come to the conclusion that the House and Senate bills "create unacceptable threats to free speech and free access to the Internet."
Here are some of the some of the questions being raised about the bills being considered:
Q. Why is legislation needed?
A. There's no argument that more needs to be done to protect artists, innovators and industries from copyright thieves and shield consumers from products sold on the Internet that are fake, faulty and unsafe. Creative America, a coalition of Hollywood studios, networks and unions, says content theft costs U.S. workers $5.5 billion a year. The pharmaceutical industry loses billions to Internet sellers of drugs that are falsely advertised and may be harmful.
Q. What is Congress trying to accomplish?
A. The two main bills are the Protect Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA, in the Senate, and the similar Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the House. There are already laws on the books to combat domestic websites trafficking in counterfeit or pirated goods, but little to counter foreign violators.
The bills would allow the Justice Department, and copyright holders, to seek court orders against foreign websites accused of perpetrating or facilitating copyright infringement. While there is little the United States can do to take down those websites, the bills would bar online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as credit card companies and PayPal from doing business with an alleged violator. It also would forbid search engines from linking to such sites.
The original bills would have let copyright holders and Internet service providers block access to pirate websites. Critics and Internet engineers complained that would allow copyright holders to interfere in the behind-the-scenes system that seamlessly directs computer users to websites. They said that causing deliberate failures in the lookup system to prevent visits to pirate websites could more easily allow hackers to trick users into inadvertently visiting websites that could infect their computers. The White House also took issue with that approach, saying, "We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet."
Responding to the critics, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said he is taking the blocking measure out of his bill. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also is reworking his bill to address those cybersecurity issues.
Q. What are other concerns with the bills?
A. Critics say they would constrain free speech, curtail innovation and discourage new digital distribution methods. NetCoalition, a group of leading Internet and technology companies, says they could be forced to pre-screen all user comments, pictures and videos — effectively killing social media. Search engines, Internet service providers and social networks could be forced to shut down websites linked to any type of pirated content.
In addition, critics contend that young, developing businesses and smaller websites could be saddled with expensive litigation costs. And they contend existing rights holders could impede new investment in the technology sector.
The White House said it would "not support any legislation that reduces freedom of expression ... or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."
Leahy responded that there is nothing in the legislation that would require websites, Internet service providers, search engines, ad networks, payment processors or others to monitor their networks. He said his bill protects third parties from liability that may arise from actions to comply with a court order.
Michael O'Leary, a senior vice president at the Motion Picture Association of America, a key supporter of the legislation, said his industry is built upon a vibrant First Amendment. "We would never support any legislation that would limit this fundamental American right," he said. Neither PIPA nor SOPA "implicate free expression but focus solely on illegal conduct, which is not free speech."
Q. Who else supports the bills?
A. The most visible supporters are entertainment-related groups such as the MPAA and the National Music Publishers' Association. But the bills also enjoy support from the pharmaceutical industry, which is trying to shut down illegal online drug operations, and electronic and auto industries concerned about people going online to buy counterfeit parts that may be substandard. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several law enforcement groups also back the legislation.
Q. Who are the opponents?
A. In addition to Wikipedia, many major Internet and technology companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Amazon.com and eBay, are part of the NetCoalition group opposing the bills. Disparate political groups such as the liberal Democracy for America and the conservative Heritage Action have also voiced concerns about censorship.
Q. What is the status of the bills?
A. Momentum for the bills has slowed, giving the edge to Silicon Valley over Hollywood. The Senate, as its first major business when it returns to session next Tuesday, is to vote on whether to take up the bill. Sixty votes are needed to clear that legislative hurdle. It's unclear whether supporters have the votes.
Six Republicans on the Judiciary Committee last week wrote Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., saying that while the problem of intellectual property theft must be addressed, "the process at this point is moving too quickly" and a vote on moving to the bill "may be premature."
Reid replied that the vote will occur as scheduled, saying that while the bill was not perfect and he had urged Leahy to make changes, the issue was "too important to delay."
In the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith said his panel would resume deliberations on SOPA in February. Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and an ally of the high-tech industry, said he had received assurances from GOP leaders that anti-piracy legislation would not move to the House floor this year unless there is a consensus on it.
Issa and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are pushing an alternative to SOPA and PIPA that would make the International Trade Commission, which already is in charge of patent infringements, responsible for taking steps to prevent money and advertising from going to rogue sites.
Issa formally introduced his bill Wednesday, saying the Internet blackout had "underscored the flawed approach taken by SOPA and PIPA" and his bill was "a smarter way to protect taxpayers' rights while protecting the Internet."
The Protect IP Act (PIPA) is a U.S. Senate bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy. Along with its House counterpart Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the bills are designed to provide the government and copyright holders with powers to block access to “rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods,” especially those registered outside the United States. Since its introduction on May 11th, 2011, the proposed bill has been met by opposition from various digital rights activists and bloggers for its encroachment in online activities protected under the first amendment of free speech. Congressional hearings for both bills began on November 16th.
If passed by Congress, Protect IP Act would allow the government to curb public access to websites that have “no significant use” other than infringing copyright, enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. It would also make unauthorized media streaming an act of felony and hold the web publishers and hosting services responsible for curbing their users from posting copyright-infringed content.
In addition, Stop Online Piracy Act would effectively rid of the safe harbor provisions in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which grants Web sites immunity from prosecution as long as they act in good faith to take down infringing content upon notice. Under strict interpretation, a wide range of online communities and social networks including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook would have to censor users or get shut down and ordinary users could be imprisoned for five years or posting any copyrighted work.
The legislation has been opposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Yahoo!, eBay, American Express, Google, Reporters Without Borders, and Human Rights Watch. EFF’s blog post titled “What’s On the Blacklist?” listed media-sharing services Vimeo and Flickr and e-commerce community Etsy as websites that could be put at risk under the Stop Online Piracy Act. Fight for the Future published a 3-minute infographic video explaining the basics of the bills and their impact on everyday activities of online interactions.
A number of online entrepreneurs like Reid Hoffman of Linkedin, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley signed a letter to Congress expressing their opposition to the legislation.
December 15th: Markup Hearing of SOPA
On December 15th, The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee held a meeting for markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was met by much divided opinions on the bill. According to Politico, the markup debate didn’t break down by partisanship, but a number of Democrat and Republican Representatives including Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Lungren (R-California) argued that the bill was being processed in a rush in the absence of input from technical experts regarding the legal impact of SOPA on the structure of the Internet.
On the other side of the line, Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Howard Berman (D-California) argued for an immediate measure to protect copyright holders from sites that profit from offering illicit and illegally copied content.
“All we’re trying to do here is stop online piracy. Since when did opposition get so fierce against this? What could be behind the motives of people or organizations that don’t think stopping online piracy is something that we need to deal with?” Conyers said.
Meanwhile, the all-day marathon hearing of the bill abruptly came to a temporary halt when Representative Shiela Jackson Lee (D-Texas) raised issue with a tweet that was posted by congressman Steve King (R-Iowa). According toCNET, Representative King wrote via his Twitter account:
We are debating the Stop Online Piracy Act and Shiela Jackson has so bored me that I'm killing time by surfing the Internet
Upon discovering the mention of her name in King’s tweet shortly after, Jackson Lee responded to the tweet on congressional record that it is inappropriate “to have a member of the Judiciary committee be so offensive.” When the House Judiciary Committee’s senior member Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) suggested that the clerk expunge the word “offensive” from the official transcript, Jackson Lee repeatedly refused to agree before finally permitting the replacement of the word “offensive” with “impolitic and unkind."
Alternative Proposal: OPEN Act
An alternative version of the bill known as the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act)was proposed by a bipartisan group of congressman during the hearing, which would utilize the International Trade Commission (ITC) as the authoritative venue for enforcement of copyrights and trademarks against foreign-based rogue websites that are outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), the alternative bill as explained on KeepTheWebOpen.com states: “The OPEN Act is built to protect creative ownership in America while securing the open, accessible Internet you deserve. We’re going further by actually opening up the legislative process with a new tool named Madison.”
In an official blog post on January 14th, White House cyber-security czar Howard Schmidt and two other officials responded to the official anti-SOPA petitions, which has received over 100,000 signatures combined, by stating that the administration will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression and increases cybersecurity risks, particularly measures that will involve manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS) to block services.
Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.
The statement by White House officials quickly spread through the newsvine and blogosphere. Following the official statement, Newscorp CEO Rupert Murdoch took his reactions to Twitter where he expressed his criticisms of Google and the current administration:
Murdoch, who is an outspoken supporter of anti-piracy bills, asserted that White House’s response was made to appeal Google, the company that he accuses of indexing sites offering illegal downloads of copyrighted material.
January 15th: SOPA Hearing Postponed
After sponsors of the bill agreed to remove a controversial provision requiring service providers to block access to users by manipulating the Domain Name Service (DNS), it was reported by several news agencies including New York Time that another hearing of SOPA will be shelved indefinitely until a clearer consensus could be reached. According to the statement released by House Oversight Chairman Representative Darrell Issa: “While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House. …Majority leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build a consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”
October 19th: Free Bieber Campaign
On October 19th, 2011, “Free Bieber” campaign was launched by Fight for the Future. According to the satire website FreeBieber.org, Justin Bieber could be technically sent to prison for the videos he had uploaded to YouTube prior to stardom.
A new bill in Congress makes posting a video containing any copyrighted work a felony-- with up to 5 years in prison. But wait… didn’t Justin Bieber get famous by posting YouTube videos of himself singing copyrighted R&B songs? Yep. If this bill passes, he could get 5 years in jail.
The campaign was subsequently covered on BoingBoing, Torrent Freak, and TechDirt the same day.
November 16th: American Censorship Day
In a joint effort to raise the awareness of the congressional hearings scheduled to begin on November 16th, a day of online protest dubbed “American Censorship Day” was launched on the same day at 12:00 a.m. (ET). Organized byEFF and a network of supporter groups including Free Software Foundation, Fight For the Future and Creative Commons, the campaign asked its participants to place a censorship badge over the site’s logo in display of solidarity against the legislation of the bill. On Twitter, participants of the protest tweeted links to their websites with the hashtags #sitecensored, #dontbreaktheinternet and #blacklist.
Some of the notable partipants in the American Censorship Day include a wide range of online communities like Wikimedia, Reddit, Tumblr, Mozilla, BoingBoing and Creative Commons among others. On Reddit, an official announcement titled “Stop the ridiculous PROTECT IP Act right now. Sign this petition for the love of the internet” was posted on the frontpage. Tumblr also took part in the protest by censoring dashboard content in black and providing a link with contact information of U.S. Representatives.
On the next day, Fight For the Future published an infographic chart illustrating the turnout of American Censorship Day, which reported over 6,000 participating websites, over 1 million e-mails and over 3,000 handwritten letters sent to Congress about the bills. According to a tweet posted from Tumblr’s Twitter account, an average of 3.6 calls per second was observed during its peak.
California Representative Zoe Lofgren (D) also participated in the American Censorship Day by displaying the badge on her homepage. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi also revealed her stance against the bill via Twitter, in responding to a tweeter who asked: “Where do you stand on internet censoring and #SOPA?” Pelosi’s tweet was also mentioned by California Republican congressman Darrel Issa, who suggested in an interview with The Hill newspaper there’s little hope for the legislation of Stop Online Piracy Act.
December 10th: Wikipedia’s Strike Proposal
On December 10th, 2011, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales asked the readers’ opinions on a potential blackout of the website in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act. In an impromptu straw poll launched on his user talk page, Wales announced that while there are no immidiate plans to blank out Wikipedia, he noted the Italian Wikipedia blank out in early October 2011 as a precedent, in which the parliament backed down on the privacy law after Italian Wikipedia took all of its pages offline.
December 11th: I Work For the Internet
On December 11th, 2011, a single topic blog titled “I Work for the Internet” was launched to compile a long list of user-submitted webcam portraits in display of solidarity against the legislation of SOPA. Launched by one of the central anti-SOPA protest organizers Fight for the Future, the photo project has drawn participation from a number of notable people in online media, including TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld, Tumblr co-founder David Karp and designer Peter Vidani, early Facebook developer Dave Morin, Vimeo’s co-founder Zach Klein and Texts from Last Night Co-founder Lauren Leto among others.
The news of the site was covered by The Atlantic in an article titled “A Web Celebrity-Spotting Guide to the Latest Anti-SOPA Site.” Gawker also covered the news with a hint of criticism towards its vanity-driven nature.
December 22nd: GoDaddy Boycott Campaign
On October 31st, 2011, TechDirt and the Domains both published articles stating that Christine Jones, the general counsel and corporate secretary from GoDaddy.com submitted a piece to Politico stating the company’s support of SOPA, then called the E-Parasite Bill. TechDirt countered the statement by posting screen shots of how GoDaddy itself encourages people to violate SOPA by suggesting domain names that would infringe on other established sites’ copyright and name trademarks. The day before the bill was set to be heard in the House ON November 15th, GoDaddy filed an official statement breaking down exactly why they were supporting SOPA, claiming that “there is no question that we need these added tools to counteract illegal foreign sites that are falling outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement.”
This information was relatively unknown until December 22nd when Redditor selfprodigy posted about GoDaddy’s statement to the Politics subreddit, suggesting GoDaddy users move their domains on December 29th to protest the company’s support of the bill. In response, CEO of Zferral Jeff Epstein provided a step-by-step guide on how to transfer domains from GoDaddy to another host and Fight For the Future launched a special pledge page for the would-be boycotters.
A number of major Internet companies vowed to drop their GoDaddy accounts including Wikipedia and the image hosting service Imgur. Additionally, Cheezburger’s CEO Ben Huh stated that he would move the company’s 1000+ domain names off of GoDaddy if they did not change their stance on the bill. The news quickly spread to The Escapist, Ars Technica, Gizmodo and the International Business Times.
Following the news coverage of boycott campaign on December 23rd, GoDaddy released a statement by CEOWarren Adelman announcing that they will no longer be supporting the act and pulled down a post outlining the reasons they had previously supported it: “Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation – but we can clearly do better… It’s very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it."
Despite GoDaddy’s decision to withdraw its support for SOPA, Internet users reportedly waged the boycott campaign with an estimated figure of over 37,000 domains dropped within the first 48 hours and over 70,000 domains by December 29th, including the internet culture blog BuzzFeed. Many news publications and blogs reported on the phenomenon as the Internet users’ punishing GoDaddy for their “flip-flop” stance on the bill.
December 29th: Nuclear Option Rumors
On December 29th, CNET published an article about a possible “nuclear option” that would have other popular online websites like eBay, Google, Facebook and Twitter join Wikipedia in a simultaneous blackout urging users to contact their congressional representatives to stop SOPA and Protect IP. NetCoalition leader Markham Erickson was questioned about the blackout rumors and revealed that “there have been some serious discussions about that.” The following day, articles appeared on Fox News, the International Business Times and the tech blog Geekosystem examining how successful the proposed tactic would be.
The New York Tech Meetup, an organization of nearly 20,000 people who work in the technology industry throughout New York City, is planning a protest on January 17th outside the Manhattan offices of New York Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who co-sponsored some of the proposed legislation.
January 4th: Chaos Communication Congress
On January 4th, a team of hacktivists gathered at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, Germany and announced a plan to launch satellites into orbit to put the Internet beyond the reach of censors. The story was covered by the BBC and questioned hacker activist Nick Farr about the purpose of the satellites: “The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let’s take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities,” Mr Farr said. He cited the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the United States as an example of the kind of threat facing online freedom. If passed, the act would allow for some sites to be blocked on copyright grounds.
The Hackspace Global Grid hacker hobbyist group was subsequently formed to “understand, build and make available satellite based communication for the hackerspace community and all of mankind.”
January 10th: #BlackoutSOPA
On January 10th, 2012, SF Gate published an article about the #BlackoutSOPA Twitter campaign in which Twitter users changed their profile images to have black banners captioned with “STOP SOPA” in protest of the bill. Users had been using the BlackoutSOPA web application that automatically edits the Twitter profile picture after being given access to the account.
The same day, Reddit announced on their official blog that they would be blacking out Reddit on January 18th from 8am to 8pm EST, the same day Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian would be testifying before congress.
Instead of the normal glorious, user-curated chaos of reddit, we will be displaying a simple message about how the PIPA/SOPA legislation would shut down sites like reddit, link to resources to learn more, and suggest ways to take action. We will showcase the live video stream of the House hearing where Internet entrepreneurs and technical experts (including Reddit co-founder Alexis “kn0thing” Ohanian) will be testifying.
On January 16th, Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales announced that the English-language Wikipedia will be participating in a 24-hour blackout on January 18th, joining the pledges of several other Internet companies like Reddit, Cheezburger, Wordpress, Zynga and Mozilla among others. The 24 hour shutdown of Wikipedia will be replaced with instructions on how to reach out to your local US members of congress:
January 12th: SOPA Sponsor’s Copyright Infringement
On January 12th, Vice Magazine published an article titled “The Author of SOPA is a Copyright Violator,” pointing out that Congressman Lamar Smith had used a nature photograph as a background image for his website without the artist’s permission, as shown in an archived screenshot from July 24th, 2011. Upon tracking down the photographer DJ Shulte who took the photograph, it was discovered that no request for permission was given.
On the following day of the post, Vice launched an open campaign known as “Shop a SOPA” Copyright Hypocrite Hunt in order to catch other copyright infringement associated with supporters of the bill.
January 18th: Blackout Protests
At midnight on January 18th, the English version of Wikipedia went offline and Google featured a censored out logo on its homepage, linking to its own call for action page in protesting against PIPA and SOPA. The well-known tech blogs BoingBoing went offline for the day and Wired blacked out its text on the frontpage. The blogging platform Wordpress also featured a grid of “censored” thumbnails in place of the regular blog thumbnails. Mozilla featured a similar call to action on its homepage. Reddit also participated in the blackout protest, going offline for 12 hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Cheezburger sites went dark with a pop-up message encouraging visitors to contact senators regarding the bills. The reverse image search engine Tineye also went offline in protest. Image hosting service imgur also went offline. Quickmeme posted a bulletin message with links to external pages on homepage.
The news of websites’ blackout protests were immediately picked up by CNN, New York Times and other news agencies, including several mainstream publishers who have written little about the ongoing debate in Congress. On the following day, the organizers behind the protest released a report explaining the turnout in numbers: at least 115,000 websites participated in the strike, 10 million signatures were signed to Google’s homepage petition and over 3 million e-mails (excluding ones sent from Wikipedia) were sent to Congress. In addition, thousands of demonstrators attended real-life protests in New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere.
January 20th: SOPA / PIPA Hearings Postponed
On January 14th, CNET reported that senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) asked to postpone the vote on PIPA: “We have increasingly heard from a large number of constituents and other stakeholders with vocal concerns about possible unintended consequences of the proposed legislation.”
On January 18th, the New York Times reported that congressmen Marco Rubio (R-FL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) had abandoned support for the bill. The same day, the LA Times reported that co-sponsors of SOPA Lee Terry (R-NB) and Ben Quayle (R-AZ) pulled their names from SOPA House bill.
By January 20th, seven co-sponsors of PIPA and a total of 45 Senators had either withdrawn their sponsorships or opposed the legislation of the bills, according to a count by OpenCongress. Later that day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a statement indefinitely postponing the vote on SOPA and PIPA, originally scheduled for congressional hearings on January 24th.
In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act #PIPA. There’s no reason that legitimate issues raised about PROTECT IP can’t be resolved. Counterfeiting & piracy cost 1000s of #jobs yearly #pipa. Americans rightfully expect to be fairly compensated 4 their work. I’m optimistic that we can reach compromise on PROTECT IP in coming weeks.