The war over copyright infringement on the Internet might seem like an easy one for some members of Congress, but for supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act, Capitol Hill is about to battle it out with some big opponents: bloggers.
From micromessages warning of the dangers of the act on Twitter in under 140 characters to affectations manifested in lengthy diatribes ripe with legalese, the blogosphere is brimming with concern over what the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, will do to the Internet. While lawmakers insist that the legislation is necessary to curtail copyright infringement, some users of the Web are writing on their sites that the Internet as we know it will be brought down by the act, weblogs and all.
“If either the US Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) & the US House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) become law, political blogs such as Red Mass Group [conservative] & Blue Mass Group [liberal] will cease to exist,” a blogger on the right-wing website Red Mass Group posted recently.
In some states, including Montana where writer Crystal L Cox was told her freedom of speech didn’t extend onto the Web, the First Amendment already does apply to bloggers. Under SOPA, however, the government will institute a practical firewall over the World Wide Web which will allow Congress to say what can be posted and how you can post it. One opponent, a hacktivist with ties to the online collective Anonymous, recently told RT that Web users are “preparing for censorship much like [in] China.”
Opposition against SOPA and PIPA have only strengthened in recent weeks, with a massive campaign against GoDaddy, the domain registrar that previously supported SOPA, leading to an exodus of thousands of users away from the site earlier this month. Though GoDaddy has since changed their stance and is now against the act, to many Web users that move has come too late. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia posted to Twitter that even after GoDaddy decided to go against SOPA, Wales would move thousands of pages registered under Wikipedia off of the registrar.
Outside of the main infrastructure of the Web, millions of bloggers stand to be impacted by SOPA as it currently stands and that is a fight that they won’t give up on easily. With blog posts having the ability to quickly go viral, these messages are making their rounds on the Web and letting those who might otherwise be searching for songs to download, political commentary or pop culture gossip to get informed on what SOPA could do. On RedState, the popular conservative blog often used as a milk crate for leading politicians (and served as a launching pad of sorts for Rick Perry’s current campaign for president), writer Neil Stevens posted on Christmas, “Google and others, under SOPA, are told what they can or can’t publish before they publish it. Kill. The. Bill.” Others are following suit by explaining the damage to be done by SOPA, and bloggers concerned with how the Web will be run if the legislation passes are quickly offering their own opposition.
Those that support SOPA are largely members of Congress paid by the corporate entities that stand to gain (or allegedly not lose, rather) by the act. As opposition grows, however, those against the act are accumulating a following made up of friends of free Internet that aren’t going to give in easily — and Capitol Hill is quickly realizing they’ll have to put up a heck of an argument.
“It would garner a real fight on the floor if it was brought up in its current form,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), tells Huffington Post. “It’s not going to be a slam-dunk. We have to get this one right — there’s a lot on the line.”
Jeff Silva, an analyst with Medley Global Advisors adds in favor of the bill that “It’s time to stop making excuses for illegal activity and start protecting America’s intellectual property.” Because the legislation encompasses so much activity on the entirety of the Web, however, it’s not just intellectual property that is in jeopardy but rather information sharing. Anyone who ever uploaded a parody clip or lip synch video to YouTube could face jail time, and sites that indirectly link to questionable content could be posed with tremendous fines. With blogs being made up largely of shared content, restrictions on almost all mediums of media will serve as a big blow to writers and the Web at large. Such a move would be all too strict though, says Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, who told Congress that, "By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet.”
"Their goal is reasonable, their mechanism is terrible. They should not criminalize the intermediaries,” Schmidt added in a recent Capitol Hill testimony.
In a press release on Tuesday, presidential hopeful and former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer writes that SOPA is “just one more example of legislation that is so influenced by corporate money that it has no chance of adequately solving the underlying problems – this time, protecting intellectual property rights.”
“We have to encourage the development of intellectual property, but this bill reaches far beyond its stated intent and into the realm of censorship. This country has always been a beacon of freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication. How can we advocate for greater liberties in China and around the world while restricting our own?” asks Roemer.
Bloggers are in the same boat as the GOP hopeful and support on their side is only growing. “Some good news on the SOPA front: Its corporate base of supporters is starting to crumble,” writer David Dayden posts on Firedoglake, an award-winning collaborative blog now in its seventh year. “GoDaddy is not alone. Scores of law firms are requesting their names be removed from the Judiciary Committee’s official list of SOPA supporters.”
While that exodus of support is growing off of the Web slowly but surely, the opposition by way of the blogosphere is accelerating rapidly. Back on RedState, the collaborative blog’s editor Erick Erickson writes of one SOPA supporter, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), “She is a delightful lady and a solidly conservative member of Congress”
“However,” adds Erickson, because Blackburn supports SOPA, he will “do everything in my power to defeat her in her 2012 re-election bid.” If history is any indication, Web surfers have the power to do almost anything in American politics.