Sites like Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, and Reddit have gone black this morning in protest of The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which threatens Internet independence and free speech as well as a host of other rights. We have long discussed the ever-widening array of criminal and civil penalties pushed through Congress by the powerful radio and television lobby as well as other industry groups. The Obama Administration has been particularly willing to carry the water for these groups over objections from public interest groups. SOPA reflects the power of this lobby and its hold over members of Congress and the Obama Administration. While the Obama Administration has now responded to the outcry by insisting that it will tweak the bill, such promises ring hallow given its past efforts to appease this industry and its dishonest statements recently in other areas like the indefinite detention controversy. Notably, the recent admission from the White House that it has some concerns over the bill did not come until the public rallied against the bill — another indication of the control of an industry group in the drafting of legislation. This lobby is not going to go quietly into the night. It is more likely that it will work with the White House and Congress to achieve the same purposes with an incremental series of laws — if it does not simply win outright.

The radio and movie industry has shown zero concern over free speech and other rights in seeking to protect profits. The bill has sweeping implications in the loss of safe harbor provisions and the right to bar Internet sites under vague provisions. Wikipedia, which has taking a lead in fighting this bill, has a good discussion of these dangers. Not only must this bill be defeated, but advocates should force a review of the current draconian and often abused copyright and trademark laws.

The standard approach of lobbyists when faced with public opposition is to pull back while working privately with the White House and Congress to achieve the same results once the fervor has died down. In the meantime, most of the Hollywood stars and recording artists who claim to support the arts and free speech are conspicuously silent as their lobbyists seek strip the Internet of protections. Just as we saw with the pharmaceutical industry, the entertainment industry has given jobs to congressional staffers who have worked for its interests in Congress. Various sites have documented the millions given to Congress by the industry to pass this law.

Sites like Rawstory have links to contact your representatives. I encourage everyone to join this worthy effort. The Internet is the single most important advance in free speech in a century, if not in the history of humanity. While this industry cannot see beyond its profits, the public needs to protect this resource for creative and political expression.

86 thoughts on “SITES UNITE TO STOP SOPA”

  1. According to Aaron Swartz, CISPA is worse than SOPA:

    Napolitano warns of risk of major cyber attack

    Published: January 24, 2013 9:22 PM

    WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday warned that a major cyber attack is a looming threat and could have the same sort of impact as superstorm Sandy, which knocked out electricity in a large swath of the Northeast.

    Napolitano said a “cyber- 9/11” could happen “imminently” and that critical infrastructure — including water, electricity and gas — was very vulnerable to such a strike.

    “We shouldn’t wait until there is a 9/11 in the cyberworld. There are things we can and should be doing right now that, if not prevent, would mitigate the extent of damage,” said Napolitano, speaking at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington and referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    Napolitano runs the sprawling Homeland Security Department that was created 10 years ago in the aftermath of 9/11 and charged with preventing another such event.

    She urged Congress to pass legislation governing cybersecurity so the government could share information with the private sector to prevent an attack on infrastructure, much of which is privately owned.

    A cybersecurity bill failed in Congress last year after business and privacy groups opposed it.

    The measure would have increased information sharing between private companies and U.S. intelligence agencies and established voluntary standards for businesses that control power grids or water treatment plants.

    Business groups said the legislation was government overreach. Privacy groups feared it might lead to Internet eavesdropping.

    New legislation is being considered, but it is unclear whether it will get through Congress.

    President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order soon that would set up a voluntary system to help protect some critical infrastructure and offer incentives to companies that participate.

    — Reuters

  2. Refer to previous comment (Homeland Security’s Napolitano invokes 9/11 to push for CISPA 2.0)

    Activist decries CISPA as ‘a Patriot Act for the Internet’

    By Muriel Kane
    Sunday, April 29, 2012 18:10 EST

    According to Internet activist Aaron Swartz, the proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which passed the House of Representatives this week, is even worse than the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that was sidelined by a public outcry last winter.

    Swartz told Russia Today that whereas SOPA was exclusively “about giving the government the power to censor the Internet,” CISPA has the same kind of censorship provisions but “is more like a Patriot Act for the Internet.”

    “It sort of lets the government run roughshod over privacy protections and share personal data about you,” he explained, “take it from Facebook and Internet providers and use it without the normal privacy protections that are in the law. … It’s an incredibly broad and dangerous bill.”

    “The thing about this bill is it doesn’t really have any protections against cyber threats,” Swartz added. “All it does is make people share their information. But that’s not going to solve the problem. What’s going to solve the problem is actual security measures, protecting the service in the first place, not spying on people after the fact.”

  3. Homeland Security’s Napolitano invokes 9/11 to push for CISPA 2.0

    Published: 25 January, 2013, 21:33

    “In an attempt to scare the public with a looming cyber attack on US infrastructure, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is once again pushing Congress to pass legislation allowing the government to have greater control over the Internet.

    Napolitano issued the warnings Thursday, claiming that inaction could result in a “cyber 9/11” attack that could knock out water, electricity and gas, causing destruction similar to that left behind by Hurricane Sandy.”

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