In a matter of days, the United States Senate may be voting on an extremely dangerous bill backed by the entertainment industry that would allow powerful media conglomerates and other big corporations to censor the Internet at will.
This bill, S. 968, which we’ve previously written about, is officially known as the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 — PROTECT IP, or PIPA, for short.
Ostensibly, S. 698 is intended to protect “intellectual property”, as the title suggests. Executives at Hollywood studios, publishing houses, and record companies have long wanted to “cableize” the Internet, because it would give them control over the medium. They want to be able to decide when and how everyone timeshifts or spaceshifts content, and to what extent (if any) content may be shared with others.
(Timeshifting refers to the practice of recording programming for use later, or playing and reading on demand. Spaceshifting refers to the practice of making digital copies of content — for instance, ripping a compact disc and putting the resulting MP3 or Vorbis tracks on one’s portable music player).
If big media gets their way and the Internet gets cableized, it will cease to exist as we know it today. Net neutrality will be a thing of the past. Censorship will replace freedom of expression. Innovation will be stifled.
And netroots-powered organizations like NPI, which use the Internet to organize and mobilize for change, will no longer be able to exist.
This legislation is a grave threat to the Internet. It absolutely must be stopped.
That is why we’re so thankful that two courageous U.S. Senators from the great Pacific Northwest — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Maria Cantwell of Washington — have stepped up to lead the fight against it.
Ron Wyden has pledged to lead a filibuster against the legislation in the Senate if it reaches the floor in December — as we expect it to. (It’s already made it through the Judiciary Committee). Wyden is prepared to go to the mat to defend the Internet, and three other senators have agreed to stand with him: Maria Cantwell of Washington, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
On November 17th, the four senators wrote to Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, outlining their objections to S.698. They wrote:
Our fear, which is shared by many, is that S. 968 as currently written will have the unintended consequences of undermining our nation’s national security and our goals to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, and job creation.
As currently written, the Protect IP Act and the companion Stop Online Piracy Act legislation in the House unnecessarily risk an overbroad application of the new and unprecedented tools they provide to the U.S. Department of Justice and the private sector. An excessively expansionary application of these tools would undermine our national security and economic interests.
We are particularly concerned that the proposal authorizes the use of remedies that will undermine the infrastructure of the Internet. The nation’s leading technologists and security experts say these provisions will kill our best hope for actually making the Internet more secure against cyber attacks. We take seriously the alarm expressed by the nation’s leading investors in new online startups who say the proposal will dampen interest in financing the new ideas and businesses of tomorrow, and to legal and human rights experts who caution that the proposal enables the silencing of speech.
We thank each of these senators for signing their names to this letter and pledging to defend the Internet — the most democratic, revolutionary medium for communication ever invented.
An unprecedented coalition, to which NPI belongs, has come together to fight S. 698 and its equally disastrous companion, the “Stop Online Piracy Act”, which would user in an age of censorship, where our nation’s law enforcement agencies (which already have overly broad surveillance and police powers) would become henchmen of big media conglomerates like News Corporation, Time Warner, Sony, The Walt Disney Company, and Viacom.
A couple of weeks ago, the coalition organized American Censorship Day, which NPI participated in, to raise awareness of these destructive bills. Thanks to American Censorship Day, many more people are now aware of this threat to the Internet. But our work is far from finished. We need to build opposition to this bill in both houses of Congress — especially the Senate.
If ever there was a bill that deserved to die by filibuster, this would be it.
Please take a few moments this week to call your representative and senators and let them know you oppose these bills. At StopCensorship.org, you can add your own name to the list of names opposed to the bill. Senator Ron Wyden plans to read this list into the congressional record during the filibuster against the bill, instead of reading out of a phone book or a novel.
Join us in making your opposition to these job-killing, innovation-stifling, free speech-wrecking bills loudly known.