A set of nine giant Internet companies, many of whom are normally rivals, banded together on Wednesday to place a full-page ad in many papers, as part of their campaign against the “Stop Internet Piracy Act” (SOPA, the House) and the “Protect IP Act” (Senate). Google, eBay, AOL, Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga, LinkedIn, Mozilla and Twitter placed the ad in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Washington Times.
Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook and on Google+
The ad was also distributed as an open letter to Congress (.PDF)
Those bills have strong bipartisan support in Congress (which is unusual, of course), as well as backing from those you might expect, such as Hollywood organizations, including unions and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), who say they are losing millions to pirated material.
But the bills are also backed by MasterCard and pharmaceutical companies (the drug companies say they are losing millions due to counterfeit drugs).
SOPA and the Protect IP Act would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to any website that the entertainment industry believes “engages in, enables or facilitates” copyright infringement. Search engines would be required to remove those sites from their search results.
While content providers are all behind the bill, many oppose it, calling it “Internet Censorship,” and a slippery slope to the “Great Firewall of America,” a takeoff on the “Great Firewall of China,” which that country uses to block content it does not want its citizens to see.
The open letter agrees with the intent of the bills, but adds:
“Unfortunately, the bills as drafted 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. We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written and ask that you consider more targeted ways to combat foreign ‘rogue’ websites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting, while preserving the innovation and dynamism that has made the Internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.”
On Thursday, Sandia National Laboratories, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, added it self to the list of opponents of SOPA and the Protect IP Act.
Leonard Napolitano, Sandia’s director of computer sciences and information systems, warned in a letter that the legislation is “unlikely to be effective” and will “negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality.”
Hollywood and others are proposing SOPA and the Protect IP Act as a way to curb piracy. There are already protections in place, but Hollywood and others say they do not go far enough, particularly with regard to foreign “rogue” sites, such as offshore BitTorrent sites.
Google chairman Eric Schmidt said during an appearance at the MIT Sloan School of Management said,
“The solutions are draconian. [The bill] would require (Internet service providers) to remove URLs from the web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked.”
Microblogging platform Tumblr said, about the bills,
“As written, they would betray more than a decade of US policy and advocacy of Internet freedom by establishing a censorship system using the same domain blacklisting technologies pioneered by China and Iran.”
It would seem, however, that this is a prime example of what the “Occupy” movement is all about. Hollywood and others have big bucks (not that Google and others don’t) and huge influence over the legislature. We’ll see if SOPA and the Protect IP Act move through Congress — or not.