SOPA: So What Happened Yesterday?

By John Walker on January 19th, 2012 at 10:30 am.

The internet looks cool when you imagineer it.

So yesterday was quiet, right? What came of it? With major sites blacking out, and others giving peculiar nods toward blacking out, there was a great deal of discussion, worldwide. In terms of raising awareness to the frightening dangers of SOPA and PIPA, it was an enormous success, a number of sponsors of the bill rapidly backing out. And this was the internet defending itself, without the help of the wider media. With these bills sponsored and desired by the owners of the television media who own the news outlets, this was always going to be a tough fight. But fight people did, and there have been tangible results. Here’s a few things that changed since the day before yesterday.

In terms of direct action, it was phenomenal. In the US, the Congress’s switchboards crashed under the weight of calls from people responding to the call to action. And those calls made a difference. A number of the PIPA bill’s sponsors have withdrawn their support in the face of the reaction. A serious of excellently named US politicians who had formerly put their weight behind the bills have since scarpered. Kotaku and Gizmodo provided excellent coverage of it yesterday.

Senator Roy Blunt explained on his Facebook (what is the world coming to?) that he now believes the PIPA bill is “deeply flawed”, adding some fluff about the importance of free speech.

Senator Orrin Hatch chose the Senate process of Twitter to reveal his change of mind. He said, “After listening to the concerns on both sides of the debate over the PROTECT IP Act, it is simply not ready for prime time. That’s why I will not only vote against moving the bill forward next week but also remove my cosponsorship of the bill.” Democracy, folks.

Another Facebook abdication comes from the even better named Senator John Boozman, who gives a lengthy statement explaining that the feedback from his Arkansans voters “has been overwhelmingly in opposition to the Senate bill”. And as a result of that, he’s withdrawing his support, and has pledged to vote against.

And Senator Marco Rubio, despite buying the line about the “theft of American jobs”, explained that Florida residents had been bombarding him about his co-sponsorship, takes a dig at China, withdraws his support and encourages the bill’s main sponsor, Senator Reid, to abandon the plan. He concludes by supporting “free and open access to the internet”.

You see? It works. If you’re in America, continue petitioning your local Senators and Congresspersons, because they may well listen. If you’re not American, nag your American friends until they do. As support for PIPA falls away, it’ll be harder to get through the Senate, and with former sponsors now pledging to vote against, we could see a backlash when it’s brought to the floor next week.

Wikipedia most famously went dark. Sort of. Apparently not quite understanding their own campaign they left the site pretty much accessible to anyone “for emergencies” (“Quick – I don’t know the capital of Bulgaria!”), if they had a smartphone or knew how to disable Javascript. But it still raised incredible awareness, with 162 million people visiting their blackout message. Incredible. (We’ve no idea how many saw ours, currently, as I think we broke the Google Analytics code. But I imagine it was similar.) Reddit properly blacked out, replacing their site with a screen packed with information. And 75,000 other sites joined in too, from games developers to bloggers to torrent pages, all dedicating their sites for one day to be exclusively about informing people as to the dangers of SOPA/PIPA, and how to do something about it. We salute everyone who took part, sacrificing a day’s ad revenue and readership in favour of protecting their own future and the future freedom of the internet.

Good news is TIGA, the UK equivalent of bill sponsors, the ESA, have come out against the bills. In an unambiguous statement, CEO Dr. Richard Wilson (whom we have been nagging for over a week now) explained that the legislation would lead to “damaging legal action” for online games businesses, and “inhibit innovation”, calling the bills, “a sledgehammer cracking a nut”.

Another surprisingly declaration was Microsoft, who impressively have come out against SOPA. Which adds another tick to our list of ESA members who really ought to be leaving the disgraced ESA.

And for those wanting to know more about why all this matters, the always excellent New Left Media have created a short film:

Meanwhile, I had a bit of a rant about it all over here, if you’re interested. And I strongly recommend reading this incredible article that explains why the numbers given by the SOPA/PIPA sponsors are entirely bogus. Oh, and here’s how SOPA author Lumar Smith can’t quite follow copyright law himself.

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102 Comments »

  1. D3xter says:

    Eh, you missed the best reactions xD https://twitter.com/herpderpedia

  2. bigtoeohno says:

    Thanks for your contribution to the cause RPS .

    • D3kard says:

      Cyberpunk world is coming and it will get here still…its inevitable

    • ZyloMarkIII says:

      I’ll put my vote on a dragon named Dunkelzahn to be President of the United States over any politician today if only because The Big D actually cares about the well-being of everyone. That and he’s a cool dude/dragon.

    • Arrakiv says:

      I agree. Dunkelzahn 2012!

      Maybe he’d have better luck now than in 2057…

  3. michaelfeb16 says:

    I knew this was rather successful when I had to hold for two hours to contact one of my senators and the other’s phone was nonfunctional.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      I knew this was rather successful when the local paper had a 2 sentence “article” on page 14 mentioning wikipedia being turned off. It’s quite a achievement compared to their usual online page that simply lifts weeks old stories off random web sites.

  4. Maldomel says:

    Yay! I still visited RPS 10 times yesterday just by pure habit, but it’s good to see this whole blackout thing has some impact on those politicians and lobbyists.

  5. Cerebulon says:

    The Elder Scrolls Wikia was kind enough to black out, forcing people to use the vastly superior and much older Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages wiki. Which shows up lower down on Google.
    So a strike against unjust acts, and a strike against terrible wikis.

    • Mattressi says:

      I dunno, I tend to use both. UESP is my regular go-to wiki for TES, simply because the text is black on white (I don’t know why morons insist on having black background with white text – it’s like my eyes are reading tiny lightbulbs and makes my vision spotty when I look elsewhere). However, I go to the Elderscrolls Wiki whenever I need to find out information about items – UESP tends to be horrible in regards to item information. Usually they just sort every single unique item into a list with some basic stats and might occasionally link you to the quest page that tells you how to get it (if the UESP is being nice). Elderscrolls Wiki, on the other hand, generally has a page for each unique item giving some background, how to get it and other random information, which is nice. But I have to highlight the text less my eyes fall out of my head.

    • Durkonkell says:

      The UESP is the best. They may be quite a long way down the charts due to not renaming their site “SKYRIM WIKI DAMN IT”, but they still handled nearly twenty times more traffic than ever before around Skyrim’s release.

  6. mythmanlegend says:

    In case you missed it Loading ready run, extra credits, red 5 studios and, Screwattack.com; taking about SOPA
    http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/stand-together-the-gaming-community-vs-sopa-and-pipa

  7. McDan says:

    This cheers me up enormously seeing that more people are starting to realise what a threat these bills are. Well done RPS, and well done to everyone that’s now opposing this bill.

  8. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Well done :)

    I was actually disappointed with Joystiq, who said that while they are against SOPA, decided that the best way to fight it was to “keep reporting”. That sounded somewhat naff, really.

    Also, Wikipedia kinda seemed to have missed the point of a blackout, specifically in regards to showing the possible extent to which their own site could be damaged or impaired in the future.

    • bglamb says:

      It’s not necessarily that simple. If you make a commitment to your advertising partners, you don’t always have the option of going dark for a day.

      You can’t just say “Oh well we’ll lose the ad revenue”. It might be a case of “Oh well we’ll be in breech of contract, possibly get sued, and get blacklisted from some major advertising companies which would ultimately damage the site beyond repair”.

      Just saying.

    • mondomau says:

      I know they’ve been praised for their coverage of the SOPA, and I don’t neccessarily disagree with their actions, but Kotaku’s weaselly bullshit explanation really wound me up. Particularly the bit where they pompously flipped their “just bloggers/professional journalists” card to the srs business side to support this particular action.

      I’m quite suprised at Joystiq and Giantbomb though.

    • gou says:

      bglamb, that’s exactly what sopa/pipa will do only it will be someone else’s choice to black you out, at their whim, permanently. Guilty till proven innocent.

    • gekitsu says:

      @mondomau:
      yeah, me too. i mean, it sounds mighty fine, but i totally side with the john whose name is walker here: this is not a situation where journalists have their standing-on-the-side-and-neutrally-observe role, this is a situation where their possibility to have that role is the actual topic. standing there and thumping “we be journalists! we not be partakers!” is shortsighted and missing the point.

  9. NegativeZero says:

    Not surprised that Microsoft eventually came out against it, of all the companies in the ESA they have the most to lose since they also operate a search engine and advertising network.

    • Joshua says:

      Even though their products are probably the most pirated in the world, which probably will add more weigth to their argument.

  10. asshibbitty says:

    Haha Boozman.

    Is it me or was the blackout kinda unimpressive? I went to a random site about TES and it was dark, so I thought it was down and went to another site. No message or anything. Think it was mostly social media that caused a reaction, like with everyrhing everywhere these days.

  11. thegooseking says:

    I know the capital of Bulgaria is Sofia even without Wikipedia’s help. Do you remember knowing things? Do you? It’s what all the cool kids were doing when I were a lad. It seems to have fallen out of fashion a little bit. That’s fine by me. It means cleaning up at pub quizzes. Is ‘quizzes’ the correct plural of ‘quiz’? Let me just look that up on Wiktionary…

    On topic, I shouldn’t have to say it’s fantastic that so many people are declaring their opposition to an obviously wrongheaded and idiotic bill. If there were any justice in the world, that would be the expected case rather than great news.

  12. SirKicksalot says:

    Being able to see the home page of Wikipedia for a split second and then switching to the blackout page drove the point home better IMO. It was very jarring. I think they were right to leave the articles accessible.

    • Skabooga says:

      I will admit that it was more jarring that way. However, my brother took screenshots during the brief moment the article was visible and pasted them into MS Paint to read them. I think he might have an addiction.

  13. rustybroomhandle says:

    sopa, so good.

  14. jezcentral says:

    Did anyone else think “Introversion” when they saw the image for this article?

    EDIT: Of course, this MIGHT just be an Introversion game screenshot, in which case my comment was crass and ignorant and I apologise from the bottom of my cursed, indie-ignoring, Triple-A gaming heart.

  15. kuddles says:

    Well, thank goodness an already pretty toothless bill that might actually have stopped people from being able to steal things had such a strong outrage from the internet, only matched by outrage over DRM schemes that also prevent said internet people from stealing. I mean, if you read the bill in a completely delusional and unrealistic way, websites would be completely shut down by the government (give me a break!)

    Gamers: I’ll sit on my ass and do nothing regarding all the injustices of the world, playing with all my neat hardware made in a sweatshop in China, but take away my .iso files and I’ll scream bloody murder under the guise of free speech.

    • Llewyn says:

      Indeed, Wikipedia’s all about the ISOs, right?

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      A shill working for Rupert Murdoch, I presume.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “might actually have stopped people from being able to steal things”

      I am literally laughing right now. Never mind the Herpderpedia folks above, kuddles seems far less informed about the issue than they are.

    • Prime says:

      “pretty toothless bill that might actually have stopped people from being able to steal things”

      Isn’t that a contradiction right there? You might want to double-check on the meaning of the word ‘toothless’.

      And believe me that’s the very least of the problems with your comments, but sadly I don’t have all day to take them apart for you.

    • kuddles says:

      I actually read the bill months ago when it was actually released, I didn’t just read what a bunch of internet jockeys who never pay attention to politics told me to think of the issue, so I am far more well-informed than most of the people against it.

      Also, I love how all the replies here are just typical “Wow, you are so wrong” posts that can’t even be bothered to explain why. Probably because other than reciting talking points from websites that benefit from not having to take a stance on piracy, they actually have no clue what they are talking about, as usual.

      My point still stands: Nerds only get outraged about stupid stuff like this while not doing shit about actual important political issues, and absolutely nothing in the bill supports the crazy nightmare scenarios they claim will happen if it gets passed.

    • Machinations says:

      “I am far more well-informed than most of the people against it”

      No, frankly, you’re a putz.

      I work in IT. I support a massive DNS installation for one of the world’s blue-chip companies.

      I understand the way these technologies *work*. Being able to delist an entire namespace based on *allegations* of infringement? Insane, and essentially imposing the will of the US media companies on the rest of the world.

      “not doing shit about actual important political issues”

      Sorry to put a kibosh on your pretentious rant, but perhaps you could enlighten us heathens as to what issues you consider important?

      I know, I know, you ‘feel’ it’s a good idea. Good for you, now go back to selling records.

    • Brun says:

      SOPA/PIPA have very little to do with stopping theft (piracy). No matter how hard they try, no matter how strict the legislation is, Big Content is never going to be able to completely stamp out piracy. We know it, you know it, and the MPAA/RIAA know it too.

      No. SOPA/PIPA are about control. They’re the content industry’s latest desperate attempt to re-assert control over a market in which they are being rapidly out-competed. It’s a battle they’ve been fighting since the creation of the internet, and is simply an extension of the losing war they’ve been waging since the invention of the cassette tape.

      Big Content wants to do things the old-fashioned way. They want things to go back to the way they were when they were the sole gateway to the market, they controlled distribution and they set the price points. The world has moved on, and the MPAA/RIAA, for all their much-touted creative prowess, can’t (or won’t) figure out a way to compete.

    • kud13 says:

      piracy is not theft.

      just FYI

    • Enikuo says:

      Well, the guys that invented the internet think SOPA and PIPA will create network problems and security issues: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/12/internet-inventors-warn-against-sopa-and-pipa

      And, a lot of legal professors in the US believe that PIPA suppresses speech, breaks the internet, and undermines US leadership: http://www.scribd.com/doc/59241037/PROTECT-IP-Letter-Final

      But, what do those nerds know, right?

    • Baf says:

      OK, I was going to make a snarky reply to this pointing out that by piracy in fact is theft by definition — it’s just that copyright violation isn’t piracy. But on a cursory bit of web-searching, it looks like I’m wrong: piracy doesn’t necessarily involve seizing cargo. Simply boarding a ship and slaughtering its crew is considered an act of piracy whether you take anything away or not.

  16. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    Alas in less good news SOPA, which people asserted had been killed is going to resume its’ path through the House of Representatives in February: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9223504/Bill_sponsor_says_SOPA_hearing_to_resume_in_February?taxonomyId=70

    It really was just a ploy to trick people into thinking they needed to stop fighting.

  17. MiniMatt says:

    That cato@liberty article is indeed amazing stuff.

  18. Ninja Dodo says:

    I thought this was quite a good explanation as well (from TED): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2dF-IsH0I

  19. Lewis Denby says:

    How was everyone’s Facebook? One of the few disappointments of yesterday, for me, was the lack of my Facebook friends ‘getting’ the campaign on there. Plenty of people talking about SOPA. Plenty of people ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ my link to the campaign to spam the site with censored images all day but – uh – no one actually really doing so. A couple of people shared the images I posted on their own walls, which was sort of missing the point about spamming.

    Maybe my friends are all just shit.

  20. Cross says:

    Stop throwing a hissy, people. SOPA was introduced almost three months ago, is now shelved, and only now are you getting your collective arms up. If you wanna be ahead of the curveball next time, i suggest you sign up to the mailing lists of sites like the EFF and Demand Progress, instead of ending up as backtrailers again. If not for watchdogs like the aforementioned sites, SOPA and PIPA would’ve snuck right past us.

    Be informed, people of RPS.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      I wouldn’t be so quick to admonish people for being uninformed. SOPA is coming back next month:

      http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9223504/Bill_sponsor_says_SOPA_hearing_to_resume_in_February?taxonomyId=70

    • Prime says:

      “Be informed, people of RPS”

      …which I think you’ll find was the very reason behind the hive-mind deciding upon a Blackout Protest in the first place. There are now thousands of people who are aware of this that weren’t on Tuesday. And no, I don’t think many are saying it’s done, over, we can all relax now. It’s been communicated very effectively that there’s an ongoing threat that won’t be defeated by a bunch of websites going dark for a day.

    • Joof says:

      If you wanna be ahead of the curveball next time, i suggest you sign up to the mailing lists of sites like the EFF and Demand Progress, instead of ending up as backtrailers again.

      But by being ahead of the curveball, I’ll just make weak contact or strike out swinging. It seems like a better idea to wait on it a bit so it’s right in the heart of the plate when you make contact.

  21. Screwie says:

    “A serious of excellently named US politicians…”

    Is this the proper collective noun? Because it should be.

  22. Nameless1 says:

    And Thank You RPS, too.

  23. bill says:

    Ok. So now that the dumb SOPA and PIPA seem to be off the burner (until the politicians think they can sneak it through under the radar), maybe we should think about what we can do to actually fix the problem…

  24. standardman says:

    I must say, I’ve been enjoying all the actual journalism on this site recently, good show.

    ACTA sounds equally dangerous too: https://www.eff.org/issues/acta

    • Donkeyfumbler says:

      ‘actual journalism’?

      You may well not have meant it, but that’s about the best back-handed compliment I’ve read for a good while :)

  25. Jimmy says:

    Did anyone read that Register piece shared by funkybadger3?

    There is a point that Bing, Google, etc are profiting from linking to torrents and blogs with pirated content, and that it they could just voluntarily decide to do something. So the issue will go round and round until the big companies come up with some sort of agreement.

    Essentially, outside of the corporate sphere of FB, Google, Bing, Twitter, which is basically branded corporate internet, there is still the possibility to set up alternatives as long as the big ones stop linking to pirated crap hollywood movies, beyonce mp3s, adobe software etc. That should push legislation off the agenda given that most piracy is opportunist.

    • Prime says:

      Yes, I did. I shared it on Facebook, too, along with today’s RPS on the matter. The Register often do this – produce thoughtful, insightful pieces like this one, and the overall call for some sectors of the Internet to ‘grow up’ on this issue is a good one. There’s a definite issue and it isn’t going away just because the internet jams fingers in its ears every time someone in the other camp tries to do something about it, foolishly cack-handed though their ideas/legislation may be.

    • Machinations says:

      I know, its the end of content as we know it, hence all access must be tracked, IP’s must be assigned to PEOPLE and anyone caught watching Jon and Kate Plus Eight or whatever on those damn piracy enabling DVR’s will be shot.

      If maybe, just maybe, the content companies started a mature, rational discussion about copyright in the digital era, people *might* listen,

      As it stands now, the only histrionics are from the media companies. Like Murdoch’s little twitter rant. I guess he ran out of dead children’s phones to hack.

  26. headswe says:

    My small community joined in the blackout at http://www.baystation12.net

    • tyren says:

      Their web site is somewhat less rigidly controlled than their TV news, allowing reasonable pieces like that one to slip by now and again. ;)

      Thus explaining the web site’s slogan (to plagiarize Jon Stewart), “Shh, Fox News Doesn’t Realize We’re Here.”

  27. mollemannen says:

    if you ask me the blackout was a complete waste of time. the only thing it accomplished was to simulate a sunday on the internet when nothing happens.

  28. LTK says:

    I have to say, I’m surprised by the ability of the American people to mobilize against SOPA. Good for them. And good for us, as well.

  29. Foosnark says:

    I wonder if Senator Blunt changed his mind when it was pointed out that his Twitter page was using an uncredited, unlicensed photograph.

  30. FunkyBadger3 says:

    This is going to happen again and again until a solution to the piracy problem is found.

    • alundra says:

      It’s already been found, it’s called convenience, big publishers just don’t want to implement it, it’s cheaper to be mediocre.

  31. alundra says:

    Meanwhile, in another place of the world:

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/why-the-feds-smashed-megaupload.ars

    The US government dropped a nuclear bomb on “cyberlocker” site Megaupload today, seizing its domain names, grabbing $50 million in assets, and getting New Zealand police to arrest four of the site’s key employees, including enigmatic founder Kim Dotcom. In a 72-page indictment unsealed in a Virginia federal court, prosecutors charged that the site earned more than $175 million since its founding in 2005, most of it based on copyright infringement.

  32. luckystriker says:

    I’m not American and haven’t followed the republican candidate nomination race closely, but I caught a bit of the debate this morning before I came to work. Not sure if it had anything to do with the internet protests at all, but all 4 candidates came out strongly against the law (well, 3 did, bar Rick Santorum). Surely, if even the leading Republicans are against it, then this bill, in its current form, will fail.

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