Internet Wars: The Sopa and PIPA Saga
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Internet Wars: The Sopa and PIPA Saga

January 20, 2012, 5:42 pm
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Fearing that a new law, SOPA and PIPA, could lead to the censorship of popular sites, Twitter, Wikipedia and Google used their considerable strength to attack these two pending legislation. Their Internet assault was quick and forceful and took by surprise Hollywood and the recording industry. These bills are meant to stop foreign websites selling copy protected or pirated goods. 

These powerhouse web sites either completely shut down or made a statement however,  the shutdown of the English-language version of Wikipedia, which gets 2.7 billion U.S. visitors per month caused a world wide rumble.. Wikipedia's English-language pages went entirely black on Wednesday leaven one page alive with the words "the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet." 

“It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web,” said a statement signed by three of the free encyclopedia’s administrators. The decision to shut down the English-language section of the site, began at midnight Eastern time was finalized after a virtual chat that involved 1,800 users.

This clash is over two related bills: the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s Protect IP (intellectual property) Act. Both bills would require restrictions forcing U.S. companies to discontinue selling online ads to alleged pirates, processing payments for illegal online sales and refusing to list Web sites suspected of piracy in search-engine results.

According to Lamar Smith “This bill authorizes only the Justice Department to seek an injunction against a foreign site that is dedicated to illegal and infringing activity. The Justice Department must go to a federal judge and lay out the case against a foreign site. If the judge finds that the site is primarily engaged in illegal activity, then a court order can be issued directing companies to sever ties with the illegal website. Search engines will simply be required to remove only the direct link to an illegal site. Third-party intermediaries, like credit card companies and online ad providers, will only be required to stop working with the site. They cannot be held liable for the illegal or infringing actions taken by the rogue website.”

But “The voice of the Internet community has been heard,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who favors the tech companies, said in a statement. According to Issa,  GOP leaders told him that the House would not vote on a version of the bill that those companies oppose. “Much more education for Members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) declared earlier today that he would holdup deliberation of the bills, bowing to pressure from a coalition of Internet companies.

In a statement, Reid said he would delay the vote scheduled for Tuesday to begin consideration until the Senate Judiciary Committee could move forward. “We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks,” Reid said.

Senator Lamar too has decided to hold back on his bill stating ““I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” Smith said in a statement. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

No surprise at the Republican Presidential debate yesterday.  Here's a summarized  excerpt from the transcript of the debate, conducted by CNN's John King:

KING: "What is your take on SOPA and how do you believe it affects Americans?".

GINGRICH: Well, you're asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood. And I'm weighing it. I'm weighing it. I'm not rushing in. I'm trying to think through all of the many fond left- wing people who are so eager to protect.

On the other hand, you have virtually everybody who is technologically advanced, including Google and YouTube and Facebook and all the folks who say this is going to totally mess up the Internet. And the bill in its current form is written really badly and leads to a range of censorship that is totally unacceptable.

Well, I favor freedom. And I think that if you -- I think we have a patent office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue. But the idea that we're going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporations, economic 

ROMNEY: I think he got it just about right. The truth of the matter is that the law, as written, is far too intrusive, far too expensive, far too threatening, the freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet. It would have a potentially depressing impact on one of the fastest growing industries in America, which is the Internet, and all those industries connected to it.

At the same time, we care very deeply about intellectual content that's going across the Internet. And if we can find a way to very narrowly, through our current laws, go after those people who are pirating, particularly those from off shore, we'll do that.

But a very broad law which gives the government the power to start stepping into the Internet and saying who can pass what to whom, I think that's a mistake. And so I'd say no, I'm standing for freedom.

PAUL: I was the first Republican to sign on with a host of Democrats to oppose this law. And we have worked -- We have had a concerted effort, and I feel like we're making achievement. This bill is not going to pass. But watch out for the next one.

And I am pleased that the attitude has sort of mellowed up here, because the Republicans unfortunately have been on the wrong side of this issue. And this is a good example on why it's good to have somebody that can look at civil liberties and work with coalitions and bring people together. Freedom and the Constitution bring factions together. I think this is a good example.

SANTORUM: I don't support this law. And I agree with everybody up here that is goes too far. But I will not agree with everybody up here that there isn't something that can and should be done to protect the intellectual property rights of people.

The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people, and particularly when we're talking about -- in this case, we're talking about entities offshore that are doing so, that are pirating things. 

But the idea that, you know, anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from? Where in America does it say that anything goes? We have laws, and we respect the law. And the rule of law is an important thing, and property rights should be respected.


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