NEW YORK | The backlash against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) sparked on Wednesday the biggest online protest in history. Thousands of websites, including the mega popular Wikipedia, Google, Reddit or Boingboing went dark to express their repulse to these two bills designed to thwart copyright infringement but that may also give the U.S. government the ability to censor and shut down websites without due process. In New York City, several hundred people joined a physical demonstration outside the offices of two senators who co-sponsored the Senate version of SOPA.
The battle has been bubbling in the Net for months. Many suggest that it has a lot to do with the historic fight between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, which has poured millions into lobbying for tighter copyright laws. It smells like a conflict between new and old media, too. The Motion Picture Association of America, that has made legislation to stop piracy a top priority, says it costs the U.S. economy $58 billion and 373,000 jobs annually.
In the middle of this mediatic arm-wrestling match, we wanted to bring our readers as many numbers as possible. Who is then winning/losing money?:
“Wikipedia has no financial self-interest at play here: we do not benefit from copyright infringement, nor are we trying to monetize traffic or sell ads. All Wikipedians release their contributions under a free license, and all the material we offer is freely licensed. Free licenses are incompatible with copyright infringement, and so infringement is not tolerated”, Wikipedia's editors say.
The Washington Post explains here ho
w SOPA or PIPA could impact online start-ups. These companies insist that the bills could cause them a lot of pain:
“If SOPA and PROTECT IP pass, the US government and any corporation will have the power to censor the internet by shutting down sites, cutting off donations and payments, and censoring links. Whatever the economic consequences of this blackout are, it's all worth it to preserve the ability to create new websites and services without constant fear of being sued or, worse, blocked over links posted by users”, tells Holmes Wilson, from Fight for the Future to The Corner via email. This non-profit helped to organize the online strike.
David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, explained the giant's position in his blog:
“Last year alone we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages and invested more than $60 million in the fight against ads appearing on bad sites. And we think there is more that can be done here—like targeted and focused steps to cut off the money supply to foreign pirate sites. If you cut off the money flow, you cut the incentive to steal.”
THE WASHINGTON ARENA
SOPA has many lobbyists in Washington, including Motion Picture Association and the Recording Industry Association of America (the list is 161 names long), as well as a flood of campaign contributions ahead of the 2012 elections.
According to Open Congress, that also joined the blackout, Senator Majority Leader Reid received well over $3.5 million in campaign donations from organizations that support the House version of the PIPA. New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gilebrand received over $2.6 million and $2 million, respectively.
PIPA is still up for a vote on January 24. Similar legislation is being pushed through in some European countries like the Spanish 'Ley Sinde'.