Sites like Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing went dark. Google censored its famous logo. And just about every popular destination on the internet, even those on the periphery of tech issues, made a stand yesterday.
Unless you've been living under a rock, like that guy in the Geico commercials, by now you've heard of SOPA, PIPA and ongoing efforts on behalf of the entertainment industry to combat online piracy. But detractors say the legislation, which would allow the blacklisting of sites simply based on an accusation of content theft, is akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer, and could have dire consequences for the internet.
How do your representatives feel about the two bills? The good news is, some of them have said they'll re-examine the issues, and Rep. Nita Lowey has responded to the "huge backlash" from the public and tech sector. The bad news is both of our senators co-sponsored PIPA, both are heavily indebted to the music and movie industries, and there's little indication that either of them really understand the objections to the legislation.
In addition to yesterday's blackouts, locals took to Twitter, Facebook and other social media yesterday to contact our representatives directly and let them know the dangers of SOPA and PIPA.
Where do they stand?
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY: Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of the Protect IP Act, the senate's version of SOPA. Like fellow Sen. Charles Schumer, she's benefitted from support by entertainment lobbies. Gillibrand has been active the past few days, doling out appropriations cash to local fire departments and scheduling press conferences about damage from last year's storms, but she has not issued a press release in response to the concerns over the piracy bills. For Gillibrand, the pressure isn't just virtual -- about 1,000 protesters held signs outside the senator's offices for "one of the geekiest, most rational protests in NYC history," according to protester and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Ultimately, Gillibrand did respond -- via Facebook, a site that strongly opposes both PIPA and SOPA. Gillibrand wrote she wanted to "strike a balance" between anti-piracy efforts and online freedom. The response so far has been skeptical.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY: New York's senior senator has been working on behalf of entertainment lobbyists since he took office 13 years ago. Schumer took half a million dollars from the entertainment lobby last election cycle, and has a long history of supporting groups like the RIAA and MPAA, to the detriment of users and the internet. Schumer sponsored earlier versions of anti-piracy bills, and is a co-sponsor of PIPA. Earlier this year, he voted to move the bill forward and out of committee. After yesterday's wave of protests, Schumer says he's "carefully considering" his support of the Protect IP Act.
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison: Lowey has raised $285,410 from pro-SOPA groups, according to sopatrack.com. The congresswoman heard from constituents via Twitter yesterday. One user described the legislation as "dangerous and un-American," and urged Lowey to vote against the house version of the bill. Lowey has heard the complaints. Her spokesman, Matthew Dennis, said he expects "the legislation will change significantly as a result of the huge backlash from the last couple of days." Lowey understands the concerns about SOPA, he said:
"Congresswoman Lowey shares the concerns of hundreds of people who have contacted our office in the last couple days regarding SOPA. She thinks it is important to protect copyright holders from piracy, however SOPA as-written would have severe and damaging consequences. Specifically, she is concerned SOPA would impose an unreasonable standard on websites accused of copyright infringement, mandate excessive penalties, and block user access to certain websites. Although protecting copyright holders is important, the current version of SOPA could infringe on free speech, censor legal web activity, and hinder economic growth and innovation."
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