Many B-rated horror flicks end with the good guys destroying some kind of monster, literal (like a flesh eating beast from hell) or figurative (deranged serial killer), with the camera then panning down to the creature. Right before rolling to credits, an eye opens or a arm twitches to let the viewers know it's still alive, ensuring a sequel is in order. Such is the case with SOPA and PIPA, the controversial privacy bills that were essentially destroyed by an angry Internet mob, only we didn't really kill it completely.
A couple of months have passed since the SOPA/PIPA uproar, and things on the online rights front have simmered down quite a bit, for the most part -- Megaupload and related happenings aside. One organization hasn't forgotten the promises it made in the heat of the moment, however: the Wikimedia Foundation. If you remember, Jimmy Wales said Wikipedia would transition away from GoDaddy's services because of the registrar's support for the controversial bill. That transition is currently underway, Wikimedia revealed in a blog post Wednesday.
In the wake of the near miss that was SOPA/PIPA, the forces of the Internet are looking to exact some revenge, to go on the attack if you will. MPAA President and former Senator Chris Dodd presented an inviting target recently when he said on Fox News that the entertainment industry’s campaign contributions to politicians would be tied to their support of anti-piracy legislation. The result is a White House petition calling for a bribery investigation, and an Internet heavyweight calling for Dodd to be fired.
With public outcry over the huge mountains of money in government, Google’s recent increase in lobbying expenditures could be troublesome. The search giant now spends more than Microsoft lobbying the federal government, $9.68 million in 2011 according to the company’s recent public filings. That is nearly double the 2010 number. This came in a year when government agencies and the congress took a closer look at the Internet than ever before.
Just as tens of thousands of sites were getting ready to plunge themselves into darkness to (successfully) protest the proposed SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy legislations, music streaming service Grooveshark went dark in Germany on Wednesday. It too was protesting against something. But that’s where the similarities end. The company, a bête noire of music labels, has decided to shut down its German operations due to the “unreasonably high” licensing costs being demanded by music performance rights outfit GEMA , which claims to represent “64,000 members (composers, lyricists, and music publishers), as well as over two million copyright holders all over the world.”
Remember when your mom said whining never helped anything? Turns out she was wrong! Ever since the day the 'Net went dark, politicians -- ranging from Congressmen to presidential candidates to European Internet czars -- have been tripping over themselves as they backed away from the political hot potato. This morning, even more heartening events occurred: the lead sponsors behind the bills announced that both PIPA and SOPA have been shelved indefinitely.
Yesterday's SOPA/PIPA protests were unprecedented -- for the first time, the Internet as a whole banded together, users and websites alike, and we flexed our collective muscles to tell the government (as Craigslist put it), "KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET." In typical Washington fashion, several Senators and Congressional Representatives quickly changed their minds about the bills. But just how effective was all the e-complaining? Since the effort was so widespread, nailing down exact numbers is difficult, but let's take a peek at the ones we managed to dredge up.
You've probably read the soundbites: critics say that the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act working their way through Congress will stifle technological innovation, trample free speech and unravel the Web as we know it. Thousands of websites have “gone dark” and shut down for at least a portion of the day just to protest the depths of the bills’ combined sucktitude. But do you really know why SOPA sucks? (Hint: The answer’s different now than it was a few weeks ago.) Do you know which websites joined the blackout? Do you know what YOU can do to help? No? You will after reading this.
Hey, did you know that Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist and Reddit are trying to turn you into their corporate pawns? We didn’t either, but to hear MPAA honcho Chris Dodd tell it, the “gimmick”y blackout darkening the Internet today isn’t actually a way for tech sites to spread awareness about a critical issue to a possibly uninformed segment of the population – instead, it’s just a “stunt,” an “abuse of power” designed to punish users and elected officials alike. In related news, two of SOPA’s and one of PIPA's co-sponsors have asked to have their names removed from the bill.
Even though SOPA’s odds of worming through into law are looking increasingly slim, it’s still a threat, as is PIPA, its sister bill in the Senate – and websites are lining up to combat it. After Reddit announced it would be blacking out on January 18 to protest the bill, a host of other organizations followed suit, culminating in Wikipedia’s announcement yesterday that it, too, would shut down tomorrow. Today, Google said it would lend its voice to the cause – but not with a full-fledged blackout. One of its employees also outlined how websites can blackout in a search-friendly way.