It appears that the some in Congress are finally hearing you. Senator Marco Rubio, from Florida, has announced that he is removing his name as a co-sponsor of PIPA and is urging Senator Harry Reid not to go ahead with the plan to bring the bill to the floor.
Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we've heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.
Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.
Publicity stunt? Or democracy in action? I vote for the latter. It's good to see politicians actually listening to constituents rather than lobbyists sometimes...
We were wondering when our elected officials would start realizing just how toxic SOPA and PIPA have become. It appears it's happening today, along with the online protests. Rep. Lee Terry, from Nebraska -- who just last week expressed some concerns about the bill at CES, but still appeared committed to it -- has announced that he's removing his name as a co-sponsor of the bill, becoming the first US Representative to do so. Over in the Senate, Senator Jerry Moran did so way back in June -- and has since become a leading voice against PIPA. Terry's spokesperson claimed that after listening to some of the complaints, he realized that the bill just has too many problems, and could cause more harm than good -- especially for the open internet. Good for him. Now... who's next?
As more and more sites announced plans to black out their sites today in protest of Congress considering both PIPA and SOPA, a few people asked us if we would take part in the blackout as well. We definitely thought about it, but decided that was not the best use of this site. The key point behind the blackouts for most sites is to alert their users just how bad these legislative proposals are. For that purpose, Techdirt wouldn't gain very much, if anything, in going dark. If you've been reading this site at all over the past few months to a year (year plus, going back to the original COICA bill), you'd already be well aware of why these efforts are tremendously dangerous. Furthermore, we believed that we'd be able to provide even more value in covering what happens today, as these protests roll out. The fact that a couple of pro-SOPA lobbyists joked that they hoped we'd go dark (with one even asking "how much" it would take to get us to stop talking about this issue for the day), gave us even more reasons to keep publishing.
Obviously, however, we support the actions lots of other sites have taken in response to this ridiculous attempt to regulate the internet, based on fairy tales and no actual evidence from the legacy content businesses. The sites that have decided to go with a full blackout deserve the utmost respect for taking a true stand on the matter. Similarly, some other sites are adding their voice to the protest in different ways -- whether it's highlighting problems with the bills or pushing people to call Congress.
That last point seemed like a good idea to us, so with each post today, we'll also be posting a widget that will allow you to call your Senators' office, and express your displeasure with PIPA. We've also "grayed out" much of the site, and have a specific link at the top to StopTheWall.us, where you can find out more. I will actually be doing a bunch of meetings with Senate staffers later today, and I hope (and fully expect) to hear phones ringing off the hook while I'm there.
As promised, Google has decided to "go big" with its home page to join Wikipedia, Reddit and others in protesting SOPA/PIPA. The logo on the home page is blacked out:
And clicking the logo takes you to a protest page asking people to "take action" by signing a petition:
I'll admit that I'm a little surprised that Google went with a petition rather than driving phone calls to Congress, though the sheer numbers may make this one petition that Congress actually acknowledges. Either way, it's a strong statement of Google's support for the protest against these bills. Google also has an information page that explains how SOPA and PIPA will censor the internet, kill jobs & innovation and won't stop piracy at all. It also includes a collection of anti-SOPA/PIPA videos...
I knew this was common years ago, but I honestly had no clue that modern sports leagues were so clueless as to think that it made sense to blackout local TV broadcasting if the attendance at the event wasn't a sell-out. Those rules were from a time (apparently still existing for some) where people actually thought that being able to see a game on TV would mean fewer people coming out to the actual game. Of course, as any sports fan knows, there's a massive difference between watching on TV and "being there." But allowing fans to watch their favorite team on TV does seem to encourage fans to care more about their team, making it more likely that they'll go out and see the team live when they can. But... not according to the NFL, who still has such blackout rules in effect, and is suddenly worried that attendance this season is dropping (thanks Carlo) due to the economy, meaning that many more games won't be shown to local fans. It's difficult to see how that makes any sense at all. All it does is piss off the biggest fans, and give them reasons not to pay attention to the team, and to cut out the most compelling local TV for many fans (harming ad revenue). On top of that, you risk a sort of death spiral. Teams that don't get enough fans at the live event piss off their fans who can't watch the games on TV -- and without the games on TV, they're less interested in following the team... leading to less interest in going to the game... leading to more empty seats... leading to even fewer games getting on TV.
A few years back, after a major blackout hit the northeast, many people immediately assumed that it had something to do with a terrorist attack on the electricity system or perhaps a computer worm/cyber attack. It turned out to be neither, but it wasn't that surprising that people jumped to that conclusion. However, afterwards, people began discussing how likely it was that a cyberattack really could take out the power grid for a city, and some people felt that it was fairly unlikely to occur. The CIA, apparently, would disagree. Late Friday, a CIA official claimed that cyberattacks have been to blame for certain blackouts over the past few years, and that the agency had debated whether or not to release that information publicly. Of course, without much in the way of detail, it's difficult to have any sense of what's actually happening here and how accurate the information really is. However, we will repeat what we said after that huge blackout: even if it was a cyberattack, it wasn't particularly damaging. Yes, it was an inconvenience. And, yes, it was annoying, and some businesses were temporarily hurt due to the blackout. But, compared to other types of attacks, shutting off the power certainly seems relatively minor.