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SOPA is China-style censorship say Google, Twitter, eBay

Published time: December 15, 2011 18:12
Edited time: December 20, 2011 14:04
(REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

(REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

Nine Internet godfathers have taken out full-page ads in the New York Times, saying SOPA is an offer they will refuse. Founders of giants like Yahoo, eBay, Google and Netscape claim the bill will “undermine the framework” of free expression.

The bill is intended to crack down on websites operating outsidethe United States. If passed, the legislation would allow the US government to shut down any site illegally hosting copyrighted content. Lawmakers behind the Stop Online Piracy Act say it would deal a blow to online pirates and producers of counterfeit brand products like designer fashion items or medicine.

But the signatories, who include top men and women from services like Wikipedia, PayPal, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube, believe that online services would be required to monitor what users link to and upload, which would have a "chilling effect on innovation."

They also insist that the bill would give Washington Internet censorship rights similar to “China, Malaysia and Iran” and are urging Congress not to risk the “tremendous benefits the Internet has brought to hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world.” And it seems their collective voice is being heard, as both Democrats and Republicans in the US have decided to oppose the bill. From Ron Paul to Nancy Pelosi, more and more politicians are adopting an anti-SOPA stance.

However, many support the act, with the US entertainment industry being the strongest lobbyist for SOPA. An unprecedented coalition of major entertainment unions, guilds, studios and networks want the government to act against what it labels “digital theft”. Giants like Viacom, Disney and TimeWarner have all pledged their support for SOPA – but many are very skeptical about this, with weblogs pointing out the almost-threatening tone of messages leaked from Viacom and NBC, urging partners to support SOPA in rather direct language.

An NBC email leaked by TechDirt claims that withholding support for this legislative act could “adversely affect our business relations” with their partners. Viacom has taken the idea even further, releasing an anti-piracy video with employees begging to keep their jobs. It gets to the point where someone actually claims that if you don’t buy Viacom product, Spongebob may cease to exist. And the video, of course, was NOT posted on YouTube (whom Viacom is suing for $1 billion), where it would be free, but on the company’s website, where it’s costing Viacom’s bandwidth. The main message: “free” is equated to “stealing”; piracy costs people money and jobs. Except for Viacom’s CEO, who made $84 million in 2010.