On January 18, 2012, thousands of folks settled into their desks for the day, only to find out that many popular websites weren’t working. Even Google had a special message on their homepage. And it all had to do with the Stop Online Piracy Act, a.k.a., SOPA.
The Internet didn’t break that day. It was anti-SOPA day — and many high-profile websites “went dark” for 24 hours to protest against the far-reaching online intellectual property bill that was swiftly making its way through the government.
Like most political issues, there were two sides to the SOPA story — those that fiercely defended the measures, and those who fiercely opposed them. But unlike many political issues, SOPA was not a fight being fought along party lines. Instead, it broke down to Internet businesses, Constitutional watchdogs, the public, and a group of elected officials, against the Motion Picture Association of America, a few other elected officials and a smattering of special interest groups. The first group felt that SOPA threatened Free Speech, and, if passed, would have ushered in an era of online censorship, while the second group felt the bill was necessary to protect American jobs and intellectual property.
Eventually, lawmakers pulled the proposal and that was the end of SOPA. That said, officials are still hard at working trying to craft an online intellectual property law.
SOPA views from opinion makers around the Net. A tomato represents an anti-SOPA standpoint, and the splats…well…you know what the Splats mean.
“If you want an Internet where human rights, free speech and the rule of law are not subordinated to the entertainment industry’s profits, I hope you’ll join us…”
-Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing
“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.”
-The White House
“We oppose the passage of the SOPA bill as currently drafted, hundreds of millions of customers rely on our services every day so we don’t plan to shut those down to express our view.”
-Microsoft on SOPA
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet…”
– Chief Technology Officer of the U.S.
“There isn’t one technology company or venture capitalist who supports these bills…
This bill reverses the policy that has been in place since the beginning of the Web, that Internet companies shouldn’t be liable, nor should they be required to police or snoop on their users.”
-Markham Erickson, executive director of NetCoalition, to ABC News
“An ‘Internet blackout’ would obviously be both drastic and unprecedented. We hope that the Senate will cancel its scheduled vote on PIPA so that we can get back to working with members on how to address the concerns raised by the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] and others without threatening our nation’s security or future innovation and jobs.”
-NetCoalition official statement
“This is going to be wow, I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!”
“I think it would be better burn them down and start over,[t]he entire approach is philosophically wrongheaded. I think you should follow the money … don’t place the burden on the innocent third-parties on the Internet, [c]ensorship is never going to be the right answer.”
-Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder
“More than 2.2 million hard-working, middle-class people in all 50 states depend on the entertainment industry for their jobs and many millions more work in other industries that rely on intellectual property. For all these workers and their families, online content and counterfeiting by these foreign sites mean declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits.”
-Michael O’Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America
“Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet…[s]o tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our US home page.”
Former senator Chris Dodd, who now chairs the Motion Picture Association of America,
called the blackout a “gimmick” and called for supporters to “stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”
“We are not adjusting the consumer experience on our properties tomorrow, but we will be helping to drive awareness of key issues around these bills to our users…
-Tekedra Mawakana, AOL
This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts…Perhaps during the blackout, Internet users can look elsewhere for an accurate definition of online piracy.”
-Lamar Smith, SOPA sponsor