SOPA protest gets intended effect
The Internet community's rally cry against anti-piracy legislation is triggering its intended effect, though the final outcome remains far from settled. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill were flooded with calls Wednesday morning in response to an online blackout by technology companies. Some key lawmakers who've supported or co-sponsored the legislation are also backing off.
Opponents of the legislation say their momentum has been gaining for several days, but Wednesday's Internet blackout has spread their message to casual Web users who may not have previously paid attention.
The momentum is totally real," says Marvin Ammori, a First Amendment lawyer who's fighting the legislation. It's nice to see a campaign like this when the average person knows something is up and calling his representative. People call about issues like immigration. But for Internet issues to get calls, it's a big deal."
The bills' supporters, including business trade groups, publishers and media companies, downplayed the effects of the blackout, calling it a political stunt.
Some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem," says Chris Dodd, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, which supports the bills. A so-called blackout is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently."
Dodd lost more supporters Wednesday. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a PIPA co-sponsor, withdrew his support for the bill. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote on his Facebook page that Congress should slow down in pursuing the bills' passage and that it is 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," he wrote.
In the House, Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz., who originally co-sponsored SOPA, withdrew his name from the list of sponsors on Tuesday, reported Politico. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., also withdrew his support from the current version of SOPA.
Sensing a rising tide of consumer backlash, SOPA opponents have been able to chip away at the bill. After much protest, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, announced late last week that he plans to scrap a key remedy for copyright holders and law enforcementgetting Internet service providers to block foreign websites accused of piracy. Obama administration officials also backed the change.