ANGELES (AP)—In a move that heightens the growing tension between
Silicon Valley and Hollywood, Wikipedia and other websites went dark
Wednesday in protest of two congressional proposals intended to thwart
the online piracy of copyrighted movies and TV programs.
web-based encyclopedia is part of a loose coalition of dot-coms and
large technology companies that fear Congress is prepared to side with
Hollywood and enact extreme measures—possibly including the blocking of
entire websites—to stop the online sharing and unauthorized use of
The fight will test which California-based industry has the most sway in Washington.
now, Silicon Valley appears to have the upper hand. Supporters of the
legislation—called the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the
Protect Intellectual Property Act in the Senate—say the bills are aimed
at protecting jobs in the movie and music industries. But a campaign
including tech heavyweights such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. has
successfully portrayed the bills as an attack on a free and open
has nothing to do with stolen songs or movies,” said Justin Ruben,
executive director of MoveOn.org, which is participating in the
blackout. Ruben says tougher legislation—even directed overseas—could
make domestic cultural commentators more prone to legal attack.
than showing encyclopedia articles, Wikipedia displayed a blacked-out
page describing the protest and offering more information on the bills.
Many articles were still viewable on cached pages.
shut down its social news service for 12 hours. Other sites made their
views clear without cutting off services. Google blacked out the logo on
its home page, directing people to a page where they could add their
names to a petition.
one-day outage was timed to coincide with key House and Senate
committee hearings as they prepare to send the bills to the full floor
sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, sought last week to
remove a controversial provision from the House bill that could force
Internet service providers to interfere with the way Web addresses work
for foreign sites deemed dedicated to piracy. He postponed work on the
measure until February.
believe such tinkering with core Internet technology treads into
dangerous territory that could lead to online censorship. It might also
give hackers a new way to wreak havoc.
White House raised concerns that the bills could stifle innovation.
Over the weekend, the Obama administration reacted to two online
petitions, saying it “will not support legislation that reduces freedom
of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic,
innovative global Internet.”
the same time, the administration called on all sides to “pass sound
legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new
legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders.”
nuanced stance is President Barack Obama’s attempt at “threading the
needle” between two important constituencies as he seeks re-election in
November, said Jeffrey Silva, a technology policy analyst at Medley
Global Advisors in Washington.
the one hand, his administration has defended a free, open Internet as
it watched repressive regimes fall in the Middle East with help from
social media such as Twitter. It has also been a proponent of the
concept of “net neutrality,” which prevents Internet service providers
from slowing online traffic that comes from file-sharing sites known to
trade in pirated content.
On the other hand, Obama and other Democrats have gone to Hollywood dozens of times to raise campaign funds over the years.
administration is trying to fight to protect the Internet space,” Silva
said. “But at the same time, it doesn’t want to disenfranchise
Hollywood and the business community.”
behind the protests and public posturing, both Hollywood and Silicon
Valley spend generously to lobby causes in Washington. According to the
Center for Responsive Politics, the movie, television and music
industries spent a combined $91.7 million on lobbying efforts in 2011,
compared with the computer and Internet industry’s $93 million.
the 2012 election cycle, the movie, television and music industry
offered up $7.7 million in direct campaign contributions to
congressional candidates. The computer and Internet industry contributed
the uproar on websites and blogs, PIPA remains firmly in play. Senate
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Tuesday that he intends
to push the bill toward a floor vote on Jan. 24. He said much of the
criticism of the bill is “flatly wrong.”
amid the high-tech campaign against the bills, several lawmakers came
out in opposition. At least three Senate Republicans who had previously
cosponsored the Senate bill—Orrin Hatch of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri
and John Boozman of Arkansas—issued statements Wednesday saying they
were withdrawing their support.
It remains to be seen whether the two industries can come to the table and negotiate a compromise.
are good companies, and then there are companies simply out to preserve
the Wild West, free-to-steal business model,” said Recording Industry
Association of America CEO Cary Sherman. He expects to know “within the
next few weeks” whether the legislation can survive.
may have a personal incentive to keep online piracy on the nation’s
political radar, said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a
non-partisan government-accountability watchdog. If the issue stays
alive through the current election cycle, it may help bring in campaign
contributions from high-tech donors and Hollywood later this year.
issue “becomes an opportunity for raising more money from these
groups,” Wertheimer said. “If you’re into an important issue and money
is flowing in on both sides, then both sides can up the ante.”
Congressional reporter Jim Abrams contributed to this report from Washington.
SOURCE: The Associated Press