Geeks 1, Congress 0: Controversial anti-piracy bill SOPA 'shelved'
By Zack Whittaker | January 16, 2012, 8:50am PST (ZDNet)
Summary: SOPA is not dead, just badly wounded. But the collective support from one online community alone shows that democracy can, and indeed does work.
The Stop Online Piracy Act, known as SOPA, has been ’shelved’ by Congress to consider its options and to “address outstanding concerns”.
Round one is over. But the bills are not dead yet, just badly injured.
While it is entirely possible that SOPA could return, or be brought back as a derivative work under a different name, the Internet can take a breather, lick its wounds, and rest for a while.
The White House over the weekend responded to the SOPA Act, the PROTECT-IP Act, and the lesser-known OPEN Act, which acts in a vastly similar fashion to SOPA.
The SOPA bill, arguably the most controversial, would allow rights holders to have websites shutdown that allegedly infringe copyright, without due process or trial.
While the workings of the bill are still under wraps and polices yet to be written, a “shoot now, ask questions later” approach was clear to see. Many online community-based properties — including ZDNet — would have been under extreme risk to these pieces of legislation.
While it was the first official acknowledgement of the bills, it was made clear that the President could veto any bill that does: “not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet”.
This comes only days after a controversial DNS-blocking mechanism that ran at the heart of the SOPA bill would be scrapped until the U.S. House Judiciary can, “further examine the issues surrounding this provision”. It was the kick in the teeth that the online community was hoping for.
But the White House’s comments made it clear that while under this U.S. administration, SOPA, PROTECT-IP and the OPEN bills will not pass.
Reddit has been a firm opposition to the SOPA and PROTECT-IP bills, and was the first to formally announce that the site would ‘blackout’ in protest of the bills. Others were considering taking a similar approach, but many others nevertheless took it upon themselves to follow suit.
GoDaddy was the target of a Reddit campaign after the company came out and officially supported SOPA. Many major websites and brands transfered their sites away from the domain name registrar. The company, that in the past has been a magnet for controversy, reversed its decision, but by then it was too late.
Reddit makes up less than 5 percent of the U.S. population, with many of its users in international territory. For the bills to be scrapped in their entirety, it would need the collective support of Facebook’s near-billion users, and Google’s estimated 180 million American users to go dark to make any length of a difference.
Reddit has not made a firm position on its blackout at the time of writing, nor whether the online-news sharing site will continue will go dark in protest still on Wednesday.
But nevertheless, for now, the “three horsemen of the Internet” have stalled, but it does not mean that imminent danger is no longer on the horizon.
It just goes to show how far geeks will go to make their voices heard. Geeks, it should be known, spread far and wide, almost single-handedly helped save the web as we know it.