January 24, 2012

SOPA Wars II: The Internet Strikes Back

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:14

Michael Geist on the remarkable results of the anti-SOPA protests:

Last week’s Wikipedia-led blackout in protest of U.S. copyright legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is being hailed by some as the Internet Spring, the day that millions fought back against restrictive legislative proposals that posed a serious threat to an open Internet. Derided by critics as a gimmick, my weekly technology law column [. . .] notes it is hard to see how the SOPA protest can be fairly characterized as anything other than a stunning success. Wikipedia reports that 162 million people viewed its blackout page during the 24-hour protest period. By comparison, the most-watched television program of 2011, the Super Bowl, attracted 111 million viewers.

More impressive were the number of people who took action. Eight million Wikipedia visitors looked up contact information for their elected representatives, seven million people signed a Google petition, and Engine Advocacy reported that it was completing 2,000 phone calls per second to local members of Congress.

The protest launched a political earthquake as previously supportive politicians raced for the exits. According to ProPublica, the day before the protest, 80 members of Congress supported the legislation and 31 opposed. Two days later, there were only 63 supporters and 122 opposed.

[. . .]

It may be tempting for SOPA protesters to declare victory, but history teaches that political wins are rarely absolute. The current Canadian legislation, Bill C-11, is much more balanced than the 2007 proposal, but the digital lock provisions that sparked the initial protest remain largely unchanged. In New Zealand, the government later introduced a more balanced bill with greater safeguards, but the prospect of terminating Internet access was not completely eliminated.

SOPA appears to be headed for the dustbin, but successor U.S. legislation is sure to follow. A political consensus on anti-piracy legislation will eventually emerge, but the day the Internet fought back will remain the elephant in the room for years to come.

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