After website blackout threats, Reddit boycotts and other instances of increasingly cacophonous online outrage, it's finally looking like the momentum behind the internet censorship bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT-IP Act, is beginning to wane. But don't get too excited — there is still a long fight ahead.
Up to now, opposition to the draconian bills, which propose fighting copyright infringement by allowing entertainment industry oligarchs to criminalize average users, seemed to fall on deaf ears in both chambers of Congress. People like Rep. Lamar Smith (SOPA's staunchest proponent despite being a copyright violator himself) dismissively shot down even the bills' most knowledgeable and prestigious critics whilst admitting he didn't understand the technicalities being discussed.
Now things have gotten so loud that even stubborn, tone-deaf Lamar is capitulating to the opposition's concerns. The Texan Congressman announced on Friday that SOPA's China-style DNS blocking provisions are being removed until Congress can further study the unintended consequences on the security of the 'net — the very same consequences confirmed again and again by a near-endless parade of tech experts, which Lamar and his fellow SOPA backers ignored.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Patrick Leahy, prime sponsor of SOPA's twin sister PROTECT-IP similarly yielded, pledging to amend that bill as well. And back at the White House, even the Obama administration released a statement expressing its disapproval for any bill which "reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risks or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet." After that statement, there's talk that the bills might be shelved altogether
Popular sites like Wikipedia, Reddit and Destructoid will go dark on January 18th in protest of PIPA and SOPA
It may sound like it's Christmas all over again for warriors of the free and democratic internet, but we're not out of the woods just yet. It's important to remember just how much nasty stuff is packed into these bills, and even without DNS blocking, PROTECT-IP and SOPA would still be putting a proverbial loaded gun into the hands of the entertainment industry's overzealous copyright owners.
'Private Rights of Action,' the provision which grants copyright owners extrajudicial powers to cut off payment processors and ad revenue for sites deemed by them to be "infringing," still remains, and is by far the most dangerous feature of both bills. As such, the legislation could still present serious threats to human rights, government accountability and the competitive economy.
It's also important to realize that the individuals listed above didn't have a sudden change of heart on the issue — they have ignored or dismissed the facts placed before them until it became impossible to continue doing so, and their capitulation should be symbolic not of their diminished drive but of overwhelming public opinion.
Even if these bills get shelved, it's unlikely we'll never hear of their ilk again — COICA, a similar bill, was shot down barely a year before its successors PIPA and SOPA took the stage. There's still a boatload of money going into bills like these, and the fact remains that with or without SOPA, anyone on the left side of this chart is actively working off their debts to the entertainment industry, not to the American people.
• In The Net Censorship Copyfight, Lessig Strikes At The Root
• How To Fix A Censored Internet: Build A New One In Space
• SOPA and PIPA's Supporters Are Pirates Themselves
• The Desperate But Familiar Plot Behind Hollywood's SOPA Opera