Forces opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), including a number of Web sites, computer companies, fair use advocates and the consumer electronics companies, are marshaling their forces for a Thursday (Dec. 15) mark-up of the bill in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill has the support of both the chairman of the committee and ranking members.
Public Knowledge sent an e-mail Monday to its members asking them to contact their legislator in what they called the next battle in "the long war" against the bill.
That followed a conference call strategy session of tech firms and advocacy groups over the weekend to plot strategy to "kill" the bill, including driving calls to House members, according to David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, the progressive lobby group that has launched campaigns for net neutrality and against Comcast and AT&T's "three strikes" policy on streaming infringing content.
The legislation would give the Justice Department and content providers like movie and TV studios more power to take down foreign-based sites they believe to be distributing infringing content. SOPA foes, who are obviously passionate about the issue given the marshal imagery they use -- war, kill -- say it gives the government too much power with too few safeguards.
"We have the best chance of making a difference on this bill if we can push hundreds of thousands of calls into the House of Representatives Monday through Thursday," Segal said in his own e-mail action plan Monday. "This is because it's crucial our voices are heard BEFORE the bill enters the mark-up (voting) stage in the House Judiciary committee."
He provided the following "to-do list":
- "Use whatever means necessary to drive users to our central portal -- FightForTheFuture.org -- where people will be prompted to call their House Representative and given the tools to know what to say and how to say it.
- Spread our censorship tools -- please visit AmericanCensorship.org to find a tool that lets anyone redact portions of a tweet, Facebook post, blog post, etc. The redaction will be a link back to the AmericanCensorship.org page to drive calls.
- Drive people to IWorkforTheInternet.org to post pictures of themselves to tell the world that the Internet is an engine of jobs growth in this country.
- Develop your own tools to drive calls to the U.S. House of Representatives (calls to the Senate are not a priority this week) -- please let us know if you need any assistance with scripts or other materials to support these tools.
- Forward this email to anybody and everybody who is in a position to help (sites that might participate, activist orgs, reporters and bloggers, etc.)."
Opponents of the bill have been painting it as an Internet-killer, a characterization that did not sit well with a number of Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary committee in a hearing on the bill last month. They said such hyperbole did not help the debate.
The debate is over what new powers the government, copyright owners and Internet service providers should be given to combat rogue Web sites, both in the U.S. and abroad. Google has been the target of much criticism for its opposition to the bill and the debate was characterized by some legislators as a fight among giants, with Hollywood on one side and big tech companies or, put another way, the war between North and South (California).
In the interim, an alternative bill by SOPA critics was introduced that would treat offshore digital piracy as an illegal imports issue. That bill would update U.S. trade laws to reflect that illegally downloading protected content-- like a movie or film -- from a foreign-owned Web site is akin to illegally importing foreign hard goods and put the International Trade Commission in charge of investigating infringement claims.