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'People' of the Internet Unite to Fight SOPA/PIPA Legislation

Common Dreams staff

"Looks like the Internet is winning a battle against some really bad potential law," Craig Newmark of Craigslist said. (Hyungwon Kang/Reuters)

Opponents of online antipiracy bills making their way through the US House and Senate are garnering more victories than defeats recently as the battle for the 'soul of the internet' heats up.  On the heals of an announcement from the White House over the weekend urging caution against the bills, and in anticipation for an online day of action - January 18th - open internet advocates are hoping they can squash the legislation that has pitted traditional media corporations and conglomerates against a younger wave of internet innovators, entrepeneurs, and concerned citizens.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deep Links Blog:

Over the weekend, the Obama administration issued a potentially game-changing statement on the blacklist bills, saying it would oppose PIPA and SOPA as written, and drew an important line in the sand by emphasizing that it “will not support” any bill “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

And CNET explains:

SOPA and PIPA are backed by a wide range of copyright owners, including the six Hollywood film studios and the four major record companies. The bills would hand the U.S. Justice Department the ability to cut off access in the United States to Web sites based overseas accused of trading in pirated or counterfeit materials. It would also give the government the power to force credit card companies, online advertisers, and Internet service providers to cut off ties with accused pirates.

Opponents, which include a wide number of technology companies as well as free-speech advocates, say SOPA and PIPA would threaten free speech and stifle innovation.

The latest developments signal a shift in momentum. Last year, copyright owners could boast strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and a powerful friend in the White House. Now, after SOPA and PIPA opponents mounted a vigorous campaign against the bills, they have seen lawmakers give up on the Domain Name System (DNS) provisions in both pieces of legislation--the provisions that would have given the government the aforementioned power to force ISPs to block access to alleged overseas pirate sites.

The New York Times reports some of the responses the White House statement received:

It’s not a battle between Hollywood and tech, its people who get the Internet and those who don’t.

Markham C. Erickson, executive director of NetCoalition, whose members include Google and Yahoo, said Sunday that it was too soon to dismiss entirely the House or Senate versions of the antipiracy bills. “I think the White House statement is very strong and it helps, but, no, I don’t think it’s dead,” Mr. Erickson said by telephone from Washington. “We will continue to have to educate as many members as possible.” [...]

“It’s encouraging that we got this far against the odds, but it’s far from over,” said Erik Martin, the general manager of, a social news site that has generated some of the loudest criticism of the bills. “We’re all still pretty scared that this might pass in one form or another. It’s not a battle between Hollywood and tech, its people who get the Internet and those who don’t.”

Mr. Marin said that Reddit is planning a sitewide blackout on Wednesday to protest the bills — an effort joined by a number of other sites, including MoveOn, BoingBoing, a popular technology and culture blog, and the Cheezburger Network, a collection of several dozen Internet humor sites, including I Can Haz Cheezburger? and FailBlog.

Craig Newmark, founder of, took to his blog on Sunday to make his case against the legislation:

Looks like the Internet is winning a battle against some really bad potential law.

To me, "the Internet" means the people who use it; the systems, not so important.

The bad law: SOPA and PROTECT-IP, which supposedly address real needs, but in practice, are means by which bad actors (with lots of money and lawyers) can take sites down. They talk about oversight to prevent abuse, but … I've been in customer service for around seventeen years, and there are always loopholes which enable abuse.

For what you can do:

… and please think about how you, as part of the Internet, can contribute to the common good, and think about how that can become part of what you do every day. Thanks!

Craigslist, like other sites, has posted information on its homepage to educate and activate its users about SOPA and PIPA.


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