Progress against SOPA

When I did my blog post about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) last week, things looked quite grim. The fight isn’t over, but there’s been a lot of great developments in the last few days. If you’re not familiar with SOPA (and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate), here’s a video that covers the basics:

This internet censorship under SOPA editorial by Rebecca MacKinnon also describes why SOPA would be really bad for the internet.

I also wanted to take a minute and thank everyone who called or wrote their Congressperson to speak out against SOPA and PROTECT IP. As a result of people speaking up in the last few days, a lot has happened:

- Republican Representative Darrell Issa and Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi came out against the bill. Rep. Issa said “I think it’s [SOPA] way too extreme, it infringes on too many areas that our leadership will know is simply too dangerous to do in its current form.”

- On the Senate side, Maria Cantwell, Jerry Moran, and Rand Paul all came out against PROTECT IP.

- The European Parliament passed (by a large majority) a resolution criticizing SOPA. The resolution emphasizes “the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.”

- Sandia National Laboratories, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy, concluded that the SOPA legislation would “negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality.” Sandia joins Republican Representative Dan Lungren, who also worried that SOPA would undercut efforts to secure the internet with DNSSEC.

The response from regular people has been just as incredible. Consider:

- Tumblr made it easy for anyone to call their representative, resulting in over 87,000 calls to Congress. If you haven’t called yet, this page on Tumblr makes it easy to call your congressperson.

- A ton of web users now have this issue on their radar. The Hill noted that “at one point on Wednesday four of the top 10 searches on Google were related to the bill. ‘Internet censorship’ was still the second most searched-term as of Thursday evening.”

- SendWrite offered a way to send a physical letter to Congress. SendWrite eventually had to put on the brakes after over 3000 people submitted letters to send.

I think this overreach on SOPA will actually make the internet community much stronger. Let me tell you why.

The forces in favor of SOPA have been outspending the tech industry almost 10 to 1 in Washington, according to a recent article in Politico. Here’s an image from that article that illustrates the vast gulf in spending:

Spending of content industry vs. tech industry

And members of Congress are not always the most tech-savvy: the Congressional Research Service tallies only six engineers in Congress. But if you look further out, the picture is quite different.

In 20-25 years, a generation of “digital natives” who grew up with Facebook/Twitter, search engines, and cell phones will start entering Congress. The digital generation will protect technology like the internet from especially bad regulation. They’ll protect technology because they grew up with it and embrace it. So if we can make it through the next 20-25 years, the people in power will protect technology for us, not fear it.

At least, I thought we’d have to wait 20-25 years before a critical mass of people would defend the net. But SOPA has brought that day a lot closer. SOPA galvanized the tech community, from start-ups to venture capitalists to the largest web companies. SOPA was an unexpected shock and a wake-up call. Well, guess what? Now the internet is awake. And I don’t think it’s going back to sleep any time soon. We might need to rally again in the near future, but we can do that. The internet learns fast.

What you can do?

- Sign up at American Censorship to send a note to Congress and get updates.
- Call your congressperson with Tumblr’s easy web page.
- I believe anyone inside or outside the United States can sign this White House petition. If you’re outside the United States, you can also sign this petition.
- Follow groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Twitter.
- Sign up with United Republic, a new organization dedicated to the larger problem of money in politics.
- Sign up to have Senator Ron Wyden read your name on the Senate floor when he filibusters against this legislation.

27 Responses to Progress against SOPA (Leave a comment)

  1. Great work bringing this to the attention of more people Matt, I for one am extremely disturbed by what is happening in congress.

    Neil Asher

  2. I wish government would leave the internet alone!

    It annoys me when you hear actors complaining about there wont be enough money to make movies etc, all while making 30 million dollars for appearing in each movie.

  3. This bill must go on every nation, for the protection and integrity of everyone that goes to the internet, security must come first. And as the hackers goes on much higher technologies, it is not really tough to the hackers to check us personally, like what happen on Facebook.

  4. This is great and all, however I think we all need to take action to ensure theese kind of attacks on the internet at all, as google is well aware of, censorship of this kind is prominent all over the world already, although we are mostly spared ni the western world.

    As an actor dependent on a free and open internet, I believe google would benefit greatly from taking an active part in initiatives that are decentralising the DNS-system, for example dot bit(based on the bit-coin technology) and .p2p, an initiative from the spokesperson of the piratebay. Google could support theese inititives greatly with technical competences, credability, proposing standards and supporting them in chrome and android. Apart from making the world a better more transparent place. This in return would make many of your products (most prominently your search) more useful and valuebal in countries with censoring and repressing regimes.

    Sorry for bad spelling, English is not my native lanugage.

  5. If Congress passes SOPA I say we all get robo-caller software for our computers and start calling them. Paralyze the congressional switchboard, and the office phones of any politician that votes for it.

  6. I’m glad you pointed out the money from lobbying. I have a blog post saved as a draft that points out how much money the sponsors got from the content industry.

  7. Hard times for liberty. In Spain we have had a terrible cut down in liberty and freedom of speach with a law called Sinde’s Law that gives politicians the right to close websites at their sole discretion.

  8. Thanks for bringing this to people’s attention Matt, and I agree that difficult situations like this usually bring people closer to action. I think it will happen much sooner than 20-25 years, as I see many of the older generation embrace technology I never thought they would. Good things…

  9. Matt,

    This is crazy they should focus on the economy not on entertainment people are out of jobs, and they worry about someone who is already a billionaire. Maybe Google can come up with Google movies :)

  10. This bill must go on every nation, for the protection and integrity of everyone that goes to the internet, security must come first. And as the hackers goes on much higher technologies, it is not really tough to the hackers to check us personally, like what happen on Facebook.

    This guy’s got a really good point, and one I think most of the anti-censorship crowd is ignoring.

    The simple fact is that censorship in some form or fashion has to occur. The goal should always be to keep censorship as minimal as possible, but sometimes it’s necessary. Everyone here, especially you, Matt, believes in a form of it.

    Example? Spam. Whatever the form of spam may be (email spam, forum spam, blog spam, webspam, etc.) anyone who either has an email account or has access to a site of any sort that has some level of public human interaction (e.g. a forum, a blog) doesn’t want spammy messages infiltrating his/her product. They may implement swear or other filters, but those filters represent a form of censorship. A thoroughly understandable form of censorship, and one we should keep in mind, but a form of censorship nonetheless. The only reason no one has dropped that card is because of the emotional backlash and irrational responses it could generate.

    The problem in this case is that government is proposing something. Government shouldn’t interfere with anything because it’s long since proven that it can’t handle any real responsibility or common sense thinking, but in this case I think people are overreacting far more than the government is overreaching. To compound the problem, people are overreacting without thinking of a sane, logical alternative. People propose silly ideas like this one, instead.

    If Congress passes SOPA I say we all get robo-caller software for our computers and start calling them. Paralyze the congressional switchboard, and the office phones of any politician that votes for it.

    If you’re going to complain about it, what are you prepared to do in order to provide an alternative that will be accepted? Obviously, status quo isn’t going to work because that’s what got us here in the first place. So what is the alternative? A partnership between government and all major service providers to work on the issue of copyright (probably even more dangerous since corporate interests would be at work here)? A public censorship repository?

    This is why I’m not taking part in this. No one’s proposing an alternative that makes any real sense. Everyone’s reacting emotionally, with bias, and without logic.

  11. Thanks so much for posting the link for those of us outside the USA Matt.

    It is way too scary to think of the really bad decisions that could be made by lawmakers with little or no understanding of real consequences.

    Thanks also for taking a stand on this and speaking out about it.

  12. Hi Matt,
    I was wondering when all this would show up….well here we are…”they will go as far as we let them”….that’s clear.
    Thanks for the link for people outside US…

    Let’s see the outcome…..

  13. The US music and entertainment industry has already been paying lobbyists in other countries to help enact laws making it easier to sue down loaders. This has been happening in Australia and New Zealand where they have dubbed it “Skynet”.

  14. “In 20-25 years, a generation of “digital natives” who grew up with Facebook/Twitter, search engines, and cell phones will start entering Congress. The digital generation will protect technology like the internet from especially bad regulation. They’ll protect technology because they grew up with it and embrace it. So if we can make it through the next 20-25 years, the people in power will protect technology for us, not fear it.”

    Beautiful sentiment and one which I hope holds true, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that just because you grew up surrounded by something and enjoying its benefits that you’ll automatically fight to protect it. Our planet being a case in point.

    Keep fighting the good fight Matt.

  15. Matt,

    I wrote my Congressman for the first time ever last week to explain why he should be in favor of SOPA.

    The purpose of copyright protection is to encourage people like myself, who are willing to work without a salary creating new works (books in my case) to believe that if those works find favor with the public, we’ll have a chance to earn a living.

    I’ve spent hundreds of hours this year filing DMCA complaints, disproportionately with Google’s Blogger, after sites that copied pages from my website began appearing above me in search.

    Let me quote you from an e-mail I received yesterday, and I authorize you, Matt, to look in my gmail account and confirm it if you don’t believe me:

    “I do not know what motivates you. I know nothing about you. But, I will tell you this about me and my family – there is food on our table and a roof over our heads, due in small part to you and your efforts. Please, do not ever think your work is not appreciated or important.”

    It’s appreciably more eloquent than the thank you notes I’m used to getting, and compliments to Google’s Panda, it’s an increasingly rare occurrence. Yet all we hear out of the plex is “Think about your visitors, create great new content, cross your fingers.”

    Matt, I’m a professional author, I’m always thinking about my readers, but the last thing I’m going to do is create new content when copyright infringement has destroyed my business model of being the good guy who gives freely of his time and work. As the note above implies, the guy didn’t even realize I have books for sale – that’s because there’s no pop-ups, forced sign-ins, etc.

    It’s funny, before Google set out to improve the quality of the web last February, I never had a problem with copyright infringements appearing above my own pages in search. Seeing Google sending people to piracy sites for title searches on my books before my own site brought home to me what Google believes search quality is, doing whatever makes the kids happy.

    Where do you expect the quality web pages to come from in the future? You’re setting up the world for an Internet that will consist of nothing but product reviews, opinions, and propaganda. All the real work will disappear behind firewalls and DRM.

    The one thing I’ll give Google credit for this year is belatedly adding the DMCA Dashboard to Webmaster Tools accounts. Back in February, confronted with tens of thousands of copyright infringements on my pages, I put a few weeks into DMCA filings and gave up.

    Now I can spend a day in DMCA Dashboard and get hundreds of infringements removed in 24 hours, as opposed to the 30 days or longer it used to take just to get a snarky response. I assume from the time stamps that the reason for the improved service is that legal work has been outsourced to India.

    Google likes telling people to examine their websites, as if we didn’t already know what was there, and confess our sins. Well, as somebody who has been supporting the Internet community for more years than Google has existed, let me suggest that you examine your own sins.

    And remember, without copyright protection, Google never would have had an Internet to index to start with, because it would have been nothing but photographs, and you know what kind.

    Morris Rosenthal
    Foner Books

  16. I’m from another country, but the government here is trying to put it’s nose into internet as well. that’s totally not cool!

  17. I agree Baruch, with all the problems going on right now the government could and should concentrate on more pressing issues.

  18. @Gerry Ronson so its ok if I make you work for peanuts then? films remeber tv shows cost a a lot to make and 99% of actors don’t earn much.

    The scale rate for a featured actor in a tv show is about what I make and I am in no way at the top 1 or 2 % of my industry – which is what a lead actor in a network TV show is.

  19. It’s really sad how such an overgrown corporate industry fights to not only make more money, despite their billions their already sucking in, but they are willing to ruin something everyone loves in the process. I can understand their point in some of it, such as sites like icefilms.info, but they’re not even wanting to get rid of the problem… they’re just wanting to create a way for themselves to make money on the problem.

    Hopefully this thing does not pass :*(

  20. There are lakh of post and comments how we can moderate all?

  21. Hi Matt.
    The last few years I was thinking about a new internet network, based on the same infrastructure but using only VPNs, so all of that problems will be “outside” of it.

    They will try to take control over custom DNS and sniffing traffic data, but without success ;-)

    What do you think?

    Best regards,
    Kristiyan Ivanchevski

  22. Jeff

    I share the same pain with Morris Rosenthal. The company I work for has lost 90% of our revenue (from $20 million in 2006 to now less the $4 million in 2011) due to our content being pirated and offered for free all over the Internet. 99% of these sites that host and allow the download of our created content are out of the country. Nothing I can do about it.

    When I do a search for our content in Google, those pirated sites come up before ours. Something has to be done about this. I have filed tons of DMCA complaints, only to be ignored.

    Those oppose to SOPA say it will destroy innovation. Stealing someone’s hard created content and posting it illegally is innovation? It is theft!

    Those oppose to SOPA say it will kill jobs. Well, because of the pirated content, than Google and other search engines promote, we had to let go of over 60 employees over the last five years. I do not buy the SOPA will kill jobs B.S. for one second. If anything, allowing pirated content freely over the Internet and being promoted by search engines as killed jobs and destroyed families of those employees that have lost their jobs. I have seen it first hand.

    Something need to be done about this. Those that are opposed to SOPA and Protect IP have not proposed a solution. OpenAct is not a solution, it is a joke.

  23. Politicians are finally realizing the power of Internet. In fact they are kind of scared to see such powerful tool in the citizen’s hands. Frankly, I don’t see any difference between people supporting SOPA, PIPA and Chinese government that gets into the bits and pieces of what people do and talk about.

  24. i think US always thought that they have the complete power.

    dont you think about india..
    the most fastest growing poor country…

  25. As an actor dependent on a free and open internet, I believe google would benefit greatly from taking an active part in initiatives that are decentralising the DNS-system, for example dot bit(based on the bit-coin technology) and .p2p, an initiative from the spokesperson of the piratebay. Google could support theese inititives greatly with technical competences, credability, proposing standards and supporting them in chrome and android.

  26. I hope so rashid. I agree with you..

  27. this is really great, here is the time to show the power of “Internet”.

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