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, 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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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5 replies on “Senators Wyden, Cantwell ready to stand up to protect the Internet from censorship bills”

  1. I am tru­ly thank­ful to Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden for stand­ing up for Inter­net free­dom… he’s a great man. I tru­ly hope he suc­ceeds in killing this “PROTECT IP” Act and the SOPA bill too. I am behind him 100% . Thanks, Sen­a­tor Wyden!

  2. I’ve signed my name to the fil­i­buster already. Sen­a­tor Wyn­den, know that you do not fight this bat­tle alone. Not by a long shot. 

    And to any of the sen­a­tors who’ve already been bought out by the media con­glom­er­ates, a word of warn­ing. If you pass this bill, you’ll be comit­ting polit­cal sui­cide. Your careers will end under the sub­ti­tle, “The men and women who destroyed the inter­net.” How’s that for an epitaph?

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