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A senator backtracks a bit and sites go dark in SOPA fight

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It’s ironic that the web speaks the loudest when it shuts up. But as the Cheezburger network joins Reddit, domain registrar Tucows and other sites such as Wikipedia that are considering a blackout on Jan. 18 in protest of Congress’ attempts to pass legislation to stop piracy, it’s becoming clear that site owners believe an end to their chatter might matter. On Thursday, Ben Huh — CEO of the Cheezburger Network, which hosts famous sites such as the Fail Blog and I Can Haz Cheezburger — said on Twitter that the company’s sites would be blacked out in protest.

Reddit made a similar decision on Tuesday, and as far back as November, when Tumblr “censored” it’s users’ sites, web companies have been making it clear that their form of SOPA activism would be less about donating to campaign coffers and more about driving their millions of users to call their Congressmen. It seems that web companies are using their influence with constituents to counteract the lobbying dollars spent by the content industry, which is in favor of the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, and the Protect IP Act in the Senate.

However, as we draw nearer to the Jan. 24 date when SOPA emerges from the House, it’s unclear how much room there is for compromise on each side of the debate. The tech industry has a litany of issues with SOPA and PIPA, and on Thursday, when PIPA sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy decided to listen to engineers about the DNS blocking provisions that really incensed the tech community, my inbox began filling up with statements from tech community members and public interest groups that are still unhappy with the bills. Washington horse trading is a messy business, as both Skype (s msft) and Verizon (s vz) learned during the network neutrality negotiations, but the concept of being willing to trade is essential.

By bringing in the “great unwashed” from the web, Reddit, the Cheezburger Network and others risk building a movement that won’t be able to compromise in D.C., as well as a new class of single-issue voters. For example, will the folks incensed about SOPA engage as citizens when it comes to the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN), which many see as an alternative? It’s unclear. So I’m glad that web sites are getting active in policy — but I hope that they don’t just shut their mouths, and instead are willing to come to the table and start a necessary conversation about solutions.

15 Responses to “A senator backtracks a bit and sites go dark in SOPA fight”

  1. Those who say the bill helps stop piracy are missing the one glaring point with both bills. It allows people to be punished without due process. These bills would allow sites to be pulled on accusations alone. Look up how many false DMCA claims there are and ask yourself honestly if this wont be a problem.

  2. “compromise” ? Why should anyone be expected to compromise with an patently unreasonable idea like PIPA/SOPA. We should just go for the kill. Remember “compromise” got us DMCA.

    There is this myth that compromise somehow ends the political battle. After a “compromise” both sides will shake hands, go home and not reopen the issue.

    In reality, if there was a “compromise” on SOPA, RIAA, and their lobbyists would come back in 2 years with “improvements”. Or during the rule making administrative hearings after the “compromise” is passed, the lobbyists would descend and suggest interpretations.

    Remember Operation In Our Sites ( ) is already happening even without SOPA.

  3. Jack Parsons

    “but the concept of being willing to trade is essential.”
    These days, there is no ‘trading’, there is no ‘civility’, there is no ‘comity’, only scorched earth. There are 60 Demo Senators who need crispy buttocks.

    If you wish to explain SOPA to someone, try this: “If someone tells the police you have drugs in your hose, a SWAT team can invade you and shoot your dog or you and get away with it. SOPA is burning your house down with you in it.”

  4. What ever happened to the First Amendment right to free speach on the internet, Just who does congress think it is when they deside to limit free speech on the internet,we MUST have Net nuetrlity or the internet will just de out and fade away! Why not just SHUT UP congress for even suggesting such an act such as SOPA and so on,etc!

  5. I’m disgusted by our two mainstream corporate-funded parties (for other reasons too) and won’t be voting for EITHER of them.

    The Green Party doesn’t accept corporate money and represents the 99%. They have my votes at all levels of government.


  6. Anonymous

    There are many issues where compromise is required. This isn’t one of them. This is a no quarter given, scorched earth issue and the goal isn’t to stop these people, it’s to destroy them.

  7. Richard Bennett

    It would be a good start for them to get a handle on what SOPA and PIPA actually target, but they haven’t got to that step yet. Reddit believes they would be shut down by these bills, even though neither bill applies to domestic sites or to any site whose primary purpose isn’t piracy.

    Lawmakers just shake their heads at these antics, grateful that the performance artists in question are probably too young to vote.

    • Reading this article is unnecessary.  If something is underway to protect private property rights, whether it’s someone’s network, someone’s creative content, or someone’s source code, then you can be sure that this blog will be dead against it, and they’ll hold forth some mal-informed end of days prophecy (usually the end of the Internet)  built on straw man assertions and false choices to try and force people into submitting to a parasitic ideology.

      The blackout day participants should all converge at Zuccotti Park for the day with the rest of the folks who think they’re entitled to other people’s property and set an example by giving away all of their hard earned valuables to any comer that wants them. Om, I understand you’re in this business for page views, but you should either merge with and complete your transition to a full on left wing activist site, or hire some folks that have actually held a job in the field they assert themselves as an expert in so they can speak from knowledge and experience instead of an under-informed dogma.

      The world will do just fine without Reddit, Wikipedia, etc. Maybe even better if someone has to actually go learn something instead of taking the words of some unknown and unqualified source as fact, just because they like the way it feels.

      • I’m going to move right past the issue of treating ideas and information like physical property (instead of the acts of creating and distributing it as services, which would still allow content creators and distributors to receive appropriate compensation for their efforts) and aim at a much more specific target…

        If SOPA or Protect-IP could, in any way, actually “protect private property rights”, as you claim, then you might have an argument, Chris. But they won’t. Experts have repeatedly explained why they won’t do what they claim to attempt to do. Blocking URLs on U.S. DNS servers will not block access to these “rogue” websites, but will decrease internet security by breaking DNS security measures. People will still be able to access those “rogue” websites using their IP address, by their URLs by simply adding them to the computer’s hosts file, or by using DNS servers outside of the U.S.

        I am one of the strongest supporters of private property rights you’ll ever meet. I firmly believe that property, created by the investiture of a person’s labor, is a fundamental liberty, and that denying it is denying one’s rights as a person. But ideas aren’t (and can’t logically be) property, and even if they were, SOPA and Protect-IP, as written, wouldn’t do anything to protect content creators’ rights. What they will do is allow large media corporations to control the internet, and punish smaller competitors.

        Edmond Burke said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, but Thomas Jefferson said it is always better to have no ideas than false ones, to believe nothing than to believe what is wrong. Passing SOPA into law is worse than doing nothing — it’s doing the wrong thing.

  8. Techies don’t seem to understand how Congress works.

    A congressman’s vote is a negotiating chip. No one will ever give you anything unless you have the power to negotiate for it.

    Unless the good guys have something important to offer that individual congressmen want in exchange for their support (funding, positive press coverage, or re-election campaign help), they don’t exist.