There seems to be a growing consensus that the SOPA and PIPA may be DOA. That’s OK by us.
The recent Internet-led protest movement against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act clearly has had a profound effect on support for these chilling pieces of legislation. What’s astonishing is that the protests appear to have caught Washington by surprise. According to a report in PC World, neither supporters nor opponents of the bills “anticipated the response by Internet users.” Likewise, the rallying effect of protests led by Wikipedia, Google and other companies stunned the nation’s lawmakers.
Sadly, it is clear that Washington remains firmly entrenched in the 20th century, with very little sense of how these two pieces of legislation could have a chilling effect on free speech, stifle creativity and innovation and expand government intervention in the free marketplace.
The legislation’s supporters further publicized their absolute cluelessness by assuming that they could railroad SOPA (the House bill) and PIPA (the Senate version) through Capitol Hill using the lobbying equivalent of Rust Belt technology. They rented big-shot lobbyists and depended on the clout of well-connected spokesmen like former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, who has moved from the Hill to be chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.
That’s how most legislation gets passed. But SOPA and PIPA aren’t run-of-the-mill pieces of legislation. With their broad implications for free speech, they have incited a virtual rebellion among citizens who clearly know more about the Internet than the men and women who grace the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Thirteen million Internet users took part in the recent on-line protest against SOPA and PIPA. Three million emails poured into the inboxes of members of Congress in a single day.
If you didn’t count on this kind of response—and Congress clearly didn’t—it follows that you simply don’t understand the brave new world of the web. And if that’s the case, you should not be regulating it.
But even if Washington were better-informed, the legislation is what it is—an assault on free speech and unfettered access to information. These bills deserve a quick burial.