SOPA Sparks Massive On-Line Protest, Congress Blinks
With our state and federal capitols flooded with lobbyist money, and five corporatists on the Supreme Court having cleared the way for unlimited, anonymous spending to influence our elections, the People of the United States of America look to the Internet as our one lifeline to self-governance and self-determination. Media empires and political advertisements are expensive. The Internet is the one place where People have a chance in the free exchange of ideas.
Whether or not you've been following the controversy over anti-piracy legislation, please watch the video below and check out this website, both by a group called Stop American Censorship. The website offers a quick way to write to Congress (click here to see how your Senator plans to vote).
The Stop On-line Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Tx), and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), was drafted by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). Members of both parties have been backing away from these measures in recent days, prompted by President Obama's implied veto threat over the weekend, and today's massive on-line protest led by Wikipedia.
As Jonathan Weisman of The NY Times reported, two Republican Senators publicly withdrew their support on Jan. 18 in the face of widespread opposition, much of it organized on the web:
Freshman Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising Republican star, was first out of the starting gate Wednesday morning with his announcement that he would no longer back anti-Internet piracy legislation he had co-sponsored. Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly followed suit and urged Congress take more time to study the measure that had been set for a test vote next week.
Mr. Cornyn, just before 9 a.m, posted on his Facebook page that it was “better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong. Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time.”
As OpenCongress.org shows, there are now 36 U.S. Senators who have said they will vote against PIPA. Watch to see if this grows (or better yet, call your Senators and help to bring this about). When the "no" votes grow to 41, it will mean that the bill could be blocked by use of the filibuster. It would be better if we could bring that number to 51 or more.
But there are two sides to the story. Taylor Hackford, the President of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), a union that I am proud to belong to, sent me an email voicing support for anti-piracy legislation on December 14. This is what it said:
Our request is simple. Foreign sites are currently beyond U.S. jurisdiction, and many U.S.-domiciled sites have moved offshore because the domestic enforcement program has been so successful. We desperately need legislation that will allow us to apply the same laws to foreign-based rogue sites that are already applied to domestic sites.
I shared the email with fellow Coffee Party Board of Directors member Egberto Willies, who had been railing against SOPA and PIPA for weeks. Egberto replied:
He [Taylor Hackford of DGA] said it all. Legislation is already there to take down rogue sites. What this entails is giving government, and corporations that can influence government, blanket legislation to intimidate and effectively control all content. Think about this. As a blogger I want the absolute right to show a clip of a right wing video to refute it without the fear of my site being taken down for copyright violation. And I have lost thousands from those that have downloaded a crack the security of my software comm-drv. It is a cost of doing business. Every so often I threaten a company that stole it and get a nice payday.
Although it's annoying that the films I've made have lost out on revenue due to off-shore piracy, freedom of expression is more important in this precarious time for democracy in America, and for the right to self-determination around the globe.
The success of the SOPA pushback has proven the fact that, while Congress and the plutocrats who control Congress might not have much respect for We the People, they DO fear us when we work together, and, when we amplify our voices using the Internet. It's not a coincidence that the Global Democracy Movement is happening now, just as technology is emerging to allow the People to stand up to military dictators and banking oligarchies using Facebook and Twitter. You see, the fate of democracy and the fate of the Internet are intimately linked. This is why the movement to stop SOPA has been so powerful, and, this is why it must succeed.
CLICK to take action. And, share this incredible rhyme from the Internet Blackout by Jonny 5 of The Flobots about SOPA, PIPA and Occupy the Courts. I'll be attending Friday Jan. 20 at the U.S. Supreme Court. Jonny 5 raps: "This week is a pretty big week, the Emperor's down to just a fig leaf."