It was hard to ignore the debate over the controversial anti-piracy bills proposed in the United States – SOPA and PIPA – as a number of popular websites, namely Wikipedia, went dark in protest on Wednesday January 18th. Both the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act, were due to be voted on in the US House of Representatives (SOPA) and US Senate (PIPA), and specifically targeted foreign websites hosting US copyright material. An important issue for Canadians, which was the topic of the discussion with CFAX 1070 host Adam Stirling and myself on Friday 20th January.
Piracy of copyright material is an issue, not one to ignore as it costs content producers: musicians, movie makers, photographers to name a few – billions of lost revenue each year. What is at issue is how any government can and should legislate against website owners (bloggers), internet service providers, file sharing services, and search engines no matter where they reside.
The key parts to each act specifically authorized US law enforcement to block non-US websites and online services if they were accused of hosting pirated material. Placing the onus onto bloggers, social media platforms and search engines to ‘police’ all their links, resulted in one of the largest online backlashes ever seen:
Consider the following statistics:
162 million Wikipedia page views, with some 8 million visitors using an online form to look up the address of their Congressional representatives.
7 million signatures on Google’s petition.
200,000+ signatures on the Progressive Change Campaign Committee petition.
30,000+ Craigslist users called Congress through the PCCC’s website.
250,000+ people took action through the EFF’s resources.
2.4 million+ SOPA-related tweets were sent between 12 a.m. and 4 p.m. on January 18.
140,000 phone calls made through Tumblr’s platform.
Nearly 1,000 protesters outside New York’s U.S. Senators’ office in New York City.
The key metric to consider for impact of this action, however, was not measured in digital terms but by civic outcomes: 40 new opponents in Congress.
As we spoke on air, news was coming in that both bills have been postponed, but the debate will continue as the entertainment and content industry seeks more protection. One solution is simply market forces, as Michael Geist eloquently points out in his Huffington Post article.