Many websites went offline Wednesday, including the GenreNexus sites like Rabid Doll. And while some like the Motion Picture Association of America labeled it as nothing more than a publicity stunt, it seems to have put the spotlight on the Stop Online Piracy Act and its companion bill, the Protect IP Act.
Several Washington lawmakers who supported the legislation have now backed off, including Republican senators Orin Hatch and Marco Rubio.
"I believe it's important to protect American ingenuity, ideas and jobs from being stolen through Internet piracy, much of it occurring overseas through rogue websites in China," Rubio, one of the Florida representatives in the Senate, said, according to Roll Call. "However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies."
Rubio said that PIPA passed a Senate committee with no controversy and with no negative votes, but that things have changed since then.
"We've heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bull could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet," he said. "Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences."
Media conglomerates have been pushing through the anti-piracy bills because of the billions of dollars they say they are losing from constant copyright infringement that exists on the Web. Extreme action is needed to bring such piracy under control, they said, and have supported efforts that would cripple and destroy websites accused of such activity.
The various Hollywood unions issued a joint letter to two Democratic members of the Senate urging them to continue supporting PIPA and see it gets turned into a law.
"We are greatly offended that our advocacy for this bill has turned into an implication that we promote censorship," the letter said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "Our commitment to the First Amendment is decades old and long established -- it is a matter of public record from long before the world 'Internet' was part of our vocabulary. Freedom of expression is the very foundation of the work our members create and of the business in which they work.
"Moreover, stealing is not free speech. We are equally as offended at the implication that we are part of an 'industry of the past' standing in the way of the innovation of the future. Our members work at the very intersection of creativity and technology; what the public sees on the screen today is ample evidence of that. Technology companies do not have the only claim to innovation, and for them to claim so is absurd."
Yet those participating in the protests and speaking out against SOPA and PIPA say they are not supporting piracy or efforts to curb piracy online. However, the elements that make up SOPA and PIPA are far too extreme. Under the current version of the bills, sites can have access restricted (like the removal of their URL) simply by an accusation. PayPal and other financial services could be cut off before a site owner is even notified, and both search engines and Internet service providers could be demanded they not provide access to an allegedly infringing site.
The key to that, opponents say, is the fact that these sites are not receiving appropriate due process. Once action like those described in SOPA and PIPA begin, they cannot be undone, at least not without irreparable harm to the site, especially if the accusations are unwarranted.
It's similar, some opponents say, to executing a death penalty on someone before they even have a chance to have had a trial.
However, not supporting the bill could cause the loss of some political currency for America's leaders. Hollywood, one of the bigger bases for the Democratic Party, said they may not necessarily line up behind their leader, President Barack Obama, especially after his support of the measures wavered leading up to Wednesday's protest.
"They seemed to have bought into all this furor that has been raised," said Barry Meyer, chief executive of Warner Bros. Entertainment, who told the Los Angeles Times that he was disappointed in Obama's recent stand-back of the issue. "It's important that we register both to the administration and to Congress that this is important to the industry and to the jobs it supports."
Even with waning support, both bills still have life, and proponents are expected to rebound and try to gain steam for their support again in the coming weeks. However, it seems that the "publicity stunt" of sites like Wikipedia and others did accomplish one thing: It put online piracy and the government's attempts to curb it at the forefront of the political discussion.
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