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Anti-SOPA blackout

Wikipedia will be going offline tomorrow to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act. So will Reddit. This kind of protest could have some effect because ordinary Wikipedia users from all points in the political hyperspace will be told just what a terrible idea SOPA is, and a lot of them will get it.

CNET has a useful FAQ about SOPA.

21 comments to Anti-SOPA blackout

  • I very much approve of this. Kudos to Wikipedia et al.

  • Laird

    Apparently Congress is not going to be voting on SOPA, at least not right now. But don’t for a minute think that it’s going away. Bad ideas never do, especially in Congress; it will resurface somewhere, sometime, when (they hope) no one is looking. They’ll find their “consensus”. Eternal vigilance and all that.

    The people in power seem a little perplexed about the guerilla tactics. “Why can’t they just hire a lobbyist like everyone else?” a Congressional aide for the House Judiciary Committee asked the NY Times. Don’t you just love it?

  • As I type this, Newsnight is about to report on this. It seems to have got a lot of people’s attention.

    And off topic, they’re now playing the Keynes/Hayek video and are saying: “Have Labour embraced the Hayek side?” No, of course not, but … !!!!

  • jreynman

    At last Wikipedia did it! How about other giants?
    Another corporate voice on SOPA with a nice clip:

  • Google have done something. If you go to google.com (for which you may need to click on the link bottom right to avoid going to your country’s local version of Google) you will see a link like this

    Tell congress: Please don’t censor the web!

  • I found this an interesting take on the subject from somebody who is far from a statist and has a deep mistrust of government.

  • Alisa

    Sorry Tim, but I am not convinced: I don’t think that the bearer of the burden of proof should be determined through a comparative cost-benefit analysis, and I don’t think that that was the original idea behind the principle of burden-of-proof at the base of the Western criminal system as we know it, as the author of that article seems to think.

  • BigFatFlyingBloke

    I think the author of that article is probably a competent economist but is way out of his depth when talking about legal principles.

    He also doesn’t appear to understand the internet and thinks google are evil for generating ad revenue from search engine results and using a “fair use” approach towards youtube videos that make use of copyrighted material (like those star wars prequel critiques).

  • Mose Jefferson

    The cnet article linked to mentions “…Street protests have also been scheduled for that date in cities including New York, San Francisco, and Seattle…”

    Could this be the solution to all those annoying little “gotta protest something” types who usually spend their energy-from-a-can publically denouncing capitalism and free markets?

    How does one hold the focus of the protester-class onto positive anti-state issues, without them losing interest and slipping back into their tired old mantras about evil market freedom?

  • Alisa

    The big problem with these protests (which I otherwise wholeheartedly support) is that they are a huge wagon for all kinds of supporters of all kinds of IP thievery. Not a good company to be in, but strange bedfellows and all that…

  • Its not quite dead yet, PIPA’s creator says nothing has changed. According to this article SOPA is continuing on its way through the house. Forbes has more.

  • Elene Parker

    I’m sure you’ve heard the details of Wikipedia’s blackout in protest of Internet censorship (SOPA and PIPA in particular), but if you haven’t, here’s an article that I read today which summarizes everything perfectly: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=HAIXJA7GW5U4&preview=article&linkid=f8d9fb9e-2af4-4b3c-acd1-89ecd53d0d67&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d Cheers!

  • Midwesterner

    I haven’t heard back from either of my senators yet (Kohl and Ron Johnson), but my representative (Paul Ryan) replied within a couple of hours with the following topical form letter.

    Dear [redacted]:

    Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts on H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I appreciate you taking the time to let me know your views on this important issue, and I hope to clarify some misleading news reports regarding my stance on this bill.

    The internet has become an integral part of society, both in the United States and in countries around the world. Specifically, the internet plays a central role in the American economy, allowing individuals and businesses to deliver innovative products and technologies directly to the public. While the Internet has helped change the landscape of our economy over the past few decades, the same free flow of information provided through the Internet has also created problems with copyright and trademark infringement. A number of industries, including music, movie, and computer software companies, are affected by online piracy, ultimately hurting the American economy. The sale of counterfeit goods over the Internet, including inauthentic clothing, pharmaceutical drugs, and consumer electronics, has had a similar effect.

    One of the major obstacles in preventing the trafficking of copyrighted content or counterfeit goods through the Internet is that many of the websites responsible for these illegal services are registered and operate in foreign countries. Because these “rogue sites” are not located within the United States, the legal reach of oversight agencies in enforcing intellectual property laws is limited, whereas U.S. law enforcement is able to pursue action against comparable domestic Internet sites.

    As you may know, legislation has been introduced in the House that would attempt to address these issues. On October 26, 2011, Representative Lamar Smith introduced H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The bill contains two separate titles: Title I, “Combating Online Piracy,” and Title II, “Additional Enhancements to Combat Intellectual Property Theft.” Title I specifically targets “foreign infringing sites” and would establish the guidelines by which the Attorney General of the United States could pursue legal action against these sites. Title II of SOPA would amend specific intellectual property laws to provide additional guidelines for enforcement, while also including harsher penalties for breaking such laws.

    The internet is one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history, and it should stay that way. While H.R. 3261 attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse. I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will continue to follow the Judiciary Committee’s markup of this legislation in the hopes that a consensus can be reached on how best to prevent online piracy.

    Thank you again for contacting me with your thoughts on H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. In the meantime, if you wish to share additional information with me concerning this issue, please feel free to contact me by calling, emailing, writing, or faxing me. Please be advised that mail sent to my Washington office is subject to an additional two-week delay due to increased mail security.

    If I can be of further assistance to you regarding this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am always happy to respond and be of service to you.


    Paul Ryan

    Serving Wisconsin’s 1st District

    Encouraging, but not wholly reassuring.

  • Alisa

    Yeah, that little word ‘consensus’ in this particular context is where the devil resides…

  • Paul Marks

    Senator Rubio and Senator Blunt have switched sides (did so yesterday) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Senile Reid (or rather his staff and puppet master Senator Durbin) and Senator Corruption (I mean Chris Dodd) can not present this as a “bypartisan” measure any more.

    I would like to believe that the Republicans comming out against this stuff was a noble stand against internet censorship. But there is, possibly, another facter.

    They, and their staff, have recieved a lot of messages along the following lines …..

    “These Bills are to protect Hollywood interests – Hollywood has been smearing conservatives for 50 years, why the f*** should we help them?”

  • Midwesterner

    I just received a reply from Senator Herb Kohl, D-Wisc. Here is his position. He is not running for reelection so we, the voters of Wisconsin, have no way to hold him accountable.

    Dear [redacted]:

    Thank you for contacting me about legislation in Congress to address online piracy and consumer fraud. I value the correspondence I receive from fellow Wisconsinites, and welcome this opportunity to address your concerns.

    Federal copyright law originates from the Copyright and Patent Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which authorizes Congress to “promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Our modern copyright law protects original works by allocating certain rights to their creators for a specific amount of time. As our use of the Internet has continued to grow, the number of websites we use has grown exponentially. In recent years concerns have been raised about websites pirating original content or deceiving users with counterfeit products, and whether our copyright laws can still adequately protect creators right to their works and the safety and security of American consumers who wish to purchase them online.

    American businesses lose billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs to online piracy and sales of counterfeit goods over the Internet. While U.S. law can reach domestic websites that sell illegal counterfeit products, law enforcement cannot pursue websites owned and operated by foreign entities with domain names registered outside the U.S. To address this problem, on May 12, 2011, Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011,” S. 968. I am a co-sponsor of this bill, which is known as the PROTECT IP Act. Our bill made changes to a similar bill introduced in the 111th Congress that more narrowly target it to only the most seriously infringing foreign websites.

    Under S. 968, the Attorney General would be authorized to file a civil action in court only against foreign based websites that are “dedicated to infringing activities” and have no significant use other than engaging in illegal activity such as streaming pirated movies and selling counterfeit consumer products and pharmaceuticals. The Attorney General is required to notify the registrant of the Internet domain name, providing due process and an opportunity for him or her to respond to the allegations. Only if a judge finds that a website is dedicated to infringing activities and harms U.S. consumers and intellectual property owners, the Attorney General would have the authority to serve the court order on third parties. Those third parties, such as Internet service providers, payment processors, online advertising networks, and search engines, would be required to take reasonable measures, if feasible, to stop doing business with and prevent access to that website. The bill includes safeguards, including the ability of website operators to challenge the Attorney General’s allegations and petition the court to reconsider its order after removing the infringing content. On May 26, 2011, the Judiciary Committee approved S. 968 by a voice vote.

    As you may have heard, on January 13, 2012, Senator Leahy announced that he plans to make major modifications to the bill in order to address concerns about the provision that permits the court to order third party Internet Service Providers to use the Domain Name System to block consumers from accessing foreign websites dedicated to illegal online infringement. We will be studying them to see how they square with the concerns we’re hearing, and I look forward to working to improve the bill. Similar changes will also be examined in the House version of the PROTECT IP Act, H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act.” Known as “SOPA”, this bill is being considered by the House Judiciary Committee.

    In an effort to promote a compromise on the legislation, on January 20, 2012, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] announced that he would postpone a vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill, originally scheduled for January 24.

    As we work to find common ground and improve the PROTECT IP Act, please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind. Again, thank you for contacting me.


    Herb Kohl
    United States Senator

    Just read his paragraph that begins “Under S. 968…” and ponder the uses that AG Holder could find for those powers. Now assume he claims the latitude to file in a ‘friendly’ court.

    the Attorney General would have the authority to serve the court order on third parties

    Riiiight. Nothing to see here, folks. Just move along.

    And Kohl is a self-announced lame duck. He is beyond the reach of the people of Wisconsin for the rest of his term.

  • Midwesterner

    Well, the thread is dead, but for the archives here is Senator Ron Johnson’s (R-Wi) response. Senator Johnson took Senator Russ Feingold’s (D) Senate seat in the 2010 elections.

    Dear [redacted],

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act.

    These bills attempt to prevent foreign-based websites from pirating American intellectual property by allowing federal courts to issue orders against websites that are “dedicated to infringing activity.” The court order can then be served on search engines, payment providers, and other third parties, thereby enlisting them to prevent transactions with the infringing website.

    I understand the positions of those on both sides of this issue. The internet has been an amazing vehicle for business creation and the dissemination of information because it has provided a free-market environment with minimal regulatory burdens. On the other hand, authors, artists, and inventors should have the ownership of their creations protected, especially in the international forum of the internet. In sum, we must jealously guard the freedom of the Internet while protecting copyright holders, keeping the internet both free and prosperous.

    In view of these important competing interests, I totally support the Senate’s decision to take a step back from these two pieces of legislation and seek a proper balance. I do not believe that balance was struck by either piece of legislation as they are currently written. The best way to balance those interests may be to more actively enforce existing laws. Through targeted enforcement, we can shut down the worst actors using the authority of existing laws.

    Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is important for me to hear the views and concerns of the people I serve. Since taking office, I have received over 300,000 pieces of correspondence and have had over 150,000 people participate in live forums and telephone town hall meetings.

    Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can further assist you or your family. It is an honor representing you and the good people of Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.


    Ron Johnson
    United States Senator

    It looks like Wisconsin sent the right senator to Washington. I agree with his response. “In sum, we must jealously guard the freedom of the Internet while protecting copyright holders, keeping the internet both free and prosperous. ” and “The best way to balance those interests may be to more actively enforce existing laws. Through targeted enforcement, we can shut down the worst actors using the authority of existing laws.

    Yes to both. Kudos to Senator Johnson.