Stop Online Piracy Act opposition moves forward

Wikipedia, a major opponent of the Stop Online Piracy Act that is moving through Congress, confirmed it will go forward with a planned blackout Wednesday, despite news that the measure will be temporarily shelved.

The Obama administration issued a statement Saturday in support of laws intended to battle online piracy, but adding that it “will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

Wikipedia announced Monday that

in an unprecedented decision, the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.

According to Open Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act (known as SOPA) would “establish a system for taking down websites that the Justice Department determines to be dedicated to copyright infringement. The DoJ or the copyright owner would be able to commence a legal action against any site they deem to have ‘only limited purpose or use other than infringement,’ and the DoJ would be allowed to demand that search engines, social networking sites and domain name services block access to the targeted site.”

Among the Colorado congressional delegation, Second District Democratic Rep Jared Polis has been the most outspoken opponent of the legislation, which is being pushed mainly by major entertainment and communications companies seeking to remake the internet to prevent loose sharing and remixing of copyrighted material. Polis made a fortune as an internet entrepreneur before running for office. He held a forum on popular user-curated-news community site Reddit recently to provide information to users about the act, describing himself to participants partly as a “gamer and a nerd.” He later tweeted that SOPA is big government at its worst.

“SOPA is overreach; balance needed between idea protection & idea dissemination, destroying Internet not the answer,” he messaged to his followers.

Polis explained part of his position in committee as the bill was being debated. He said the act would “balkanize the internet,” creating a separate internet for American users than for the rest of the world and putting the onus on service providers to take down and block foreign sites merely suspected of violating copyright laws:

Colorado politics watcher and software development company head David Thielen wrote at politics blogsite Colorado Pols last week that, of the Colorado delegation, only Polis and Senator Mark Udall have gone on record in opposition to SOPA, the rest of the delegation making no public stand.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the fight over the Act is far from over. Anonymous tweeted ”SOPA is NOT dead, just put aside for now. It WILL be back once the time is ‘right’. So don’t drop your support for SOPAblackout on J18!”

Filed by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, SOPA has the support of the movie and TV industry, Viacom, NBC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and major unions like the Teamsters and Electrical Workers. SOPA is co-sponsored by 31 members of the House, including Florida’s Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and Dennis Ross.

Internet companies Bloomberg, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Zynga and others support SOPA and PIPA but argue (.pdf) that the bills would “expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites.”

Six GOP co-sponsors of the Senate version of SOPA wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to express their concerns with Reid’s “decision to file cloture on the motion to proceed to the PROTECT IP Act,” adding that constituents and other stakeholders have voiced “concerns about possible unintended consequences of the proposed legislation, including breaches in cybersecurity, damaging the integrity of the Internet, costly and burdensome litigation, and dilution of First Amendment rights.”

According to Free Press, “if passed, the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act,’ or SOPA (HR 3261), could rip apart the open fabric of the Internet. People could see their websites disappear from the Internet for a ‘crime’ as innocent as posting a video of themselves singing along to a favorite song.”

Additional reporting by John Tomasic.

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