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SOPA: So What Happened Yesterday?

The Good News

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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 A number of the PIPA bill’s sponsors have withdrawn their support in the face of the reaction.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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