Three days before a protest blackout of major Internet sites including Wikipedia, SOPA’s main sponsor Eric Cantor announced that he will stop to move the bill forward … unless there is consensus.
While Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EC in charge of the Digital Agenda launched Europe’s “No Disconnect Strategy”, the USA driven by the mighty culture industry was set to go the opposite way. First in 2010 there was COICA, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which failed and was re-written as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate in 2011. In October 2011, it was followed by the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives. All of them were intended to make US service providers like domain name registrars, advertising and payment providers stop servicing alleged copyright infringing sites abroad. Search engines, social networking platforms, cloud storage providers, universities and other institutions would also have come under pressure to monitor and filter Internet activities of their users.
These US intiatives triggered a growing tsunami of protests by the Internet community, including large Internet corporations. Countless campaign sites went up, like „Stop American Censorship„. In November, Joe Karaganis from The American Assembly at Columbia University published a Research Note with excerpts a forthcoming survey-based study called Copy Culture in the U.S. and Germany, showing that the US public is opposed to these measures. In December, a group of founders of Internet companies and nonprofits like Netscape, Google, the Internet Archive and Wikipedia in an Open Letter urged Congress „not deny the next generation of entrepreneurs and founders the same opportunities that we all had.“ Last Saturday the Obama governement issued a statement telling citizens „what the Administration will support—and what we will not support. … we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.“ Shortly after came the announcement that Majority Leader Cantor will, well, take the draft back to the drawing board.
Cory Doctorow was so happy as to declare SOPA dead, but soon updated that it’s only shelved. The most recent version is the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN). (Here is the draft.) It drops the filtering and blocking provisions and focusses primarily on stopping money transfers to foreign allegeldy copyright violating websites, and it has the support of the Internet heavy-weights. The battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley will continue.
Today on the day the Internet went black, another sponsor of SOPA, Tim Holden, dropped his support. Other key Senators followed. The Pirate Bay, for one, declared not to worry about SOPA for themselves. They do worry for the rest of the world: „The word SOPA means „trash“ in Swedish. The word PIPA means „a pipe“ in Swedish. This is of course not a coincidence. They want to make the internet into a one way pipe, with them at the top, shoving trash through the pipe down to the rest of us obedient consumers.“
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Here is a video by Fight for the Future explaining PIPA: