Did the ‘Netizen Revolt’ Kill the Stop Online Piracy Act?

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Yesterday’s Internet protest over the pending SOPA and PIPA legislation seems to have made a real impact, both in terms of blocking the legislation (likely) to the way things get done inside the Beltway. A report in The New York Times described the feud over the “once-obscure bills” as a major face-off in the battle between the “new and old economy”:

“[T]his formidable old guard was forced to make way for the new as Web powerhouses backed by Internet activists rallied opposition to the legislation through Internet blackouts and cascading criticism, sending an unmistakable message to lawmakers grappling with new media issues: Don’t mess with the Internet.

As a result, the legislative battle over two once-obscure bills to combat the piracy of American movies, music, books and writing on the World Wide Web may prove to be a turning point for the way business is done in Washington. It represented a moment when the new economy rose up against the old.”

SOPA campaign graphic from Google

This infographic posted on Google's site encouraged users to "End Piracy, Not Liberty" and linked to this PDF that laid out the campaign so far, and what the user could do to take part. (from the Google website)

Several politicians who once favored the bills announced a change of heart on their Facebook pages. Business Week reports that “13 co-sponsors, eight in the Senate and five in the House began withdrawing their support for the Hollywood-backed measures.” Some credit the blackout with “upending the traditional lobbying” that goes on in Washington.

“These organizations have reinvented a lot of the ways we live, how we connect, how we absorb media,” said Rogan Kersh, an associate dean at New York University’s Wagner School who conducts research on lobbying. “They’re now trying to reinvent how we carry out democratic politics.”

One question is whether there will be any repercussions for the White House over a statement it released late last Friday pointing out flaws in the antipiracy legislation. Politico reports that the White House move “sparked grumbling among entertainment insiders” and “could harm Obama’s fundraising prospects.”

What do you think? Is yesterday’s so-called “netizen revolt” a new model for getting things done in Washington?

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  • Anonymous

    That’s an accurate way of cutting the Web pie Theresa Riley, and concisely written too.
    There is an old economy and a new economy; that’s a simple truth, but your explanation neglects our yet undetermined future.What is neglected is how much of human Internet activity is non-market (has no profit motive). There is socializing, organizing, comparing and rating, sharing knowledge and joy…   I do not think it inconceivable that such generic (or substantive) activity (especially if perceived as political) could draw disapproval from powerful commercial interests. So I think it is not a stretch to compare potential blocking (censorship) to punitive censorship and tracking under repressive foreign regimes.Yes, our national security state sometimes oversteps and could become even more zealous with a little encouragement. But, the immediate danger is from business interests, because organization is always more dense, has more ready resources, and has a refined and targeted strategy when powered by the profit motive. At the transnational corporate level repressive campaigns can be devastating to Internet freedoms. Right now intellectual property is concentrated in corporate holdings, and they insist on easier privatization at every turn. (I can talk more about this if anyone cares.) Both the old and the new economy are at fault.China is accused of piracy because it already seems ominous to western sensibilities and we  are filibustered to resent its so-called success. But it’s not just China, or even mostly China, or even mostly pirates. It’s all the freed thinkers. The new connectivity enabled the possibility of a new economic model where ownership of ideas is less important and less crucial. We may be getting beyond that type of ownership, so that originators and creators need be rewarded in a different way in order to allow open access. SOPA and PIPA would leave us mired in a regime of rewards that no longer applies, and it could make the most revolutionary innovators criminals, or disconnected malcontents, who might start hacking. I’d prefer their forward thinking to that of those who hoard and demand tribute. Ideas resemble money value in this way because we live in a thought bubble. That’s unfortunate.

    I’m old enough to remember when TV had a great potential to uplift humanity, but the opportunity was stunted by the market. The same scenario repeats in the smaller and flatter interactive media, the offspring of TV.

    You made me think harder, Ms. Riley. Thanks.

  • leftofcenter

    What happened was the politicians who supported this backed off because it’s an election year. How do I look like I’m concerned about policing the Net, protecting users rights and get elected all at the same time?

  • Anonymous

    I agree completely. But as voters in this election year, we’re left with a solemn responsibility: how to vote about it.

    Do you know who the sponsors of SOPA and PROTECT-IP were? Lots of democrats and republicans both…this legislation was set to pass with massive support on both sides of the aisle. Even Al Franken, a heretofore outspoken guardian of Internet free speech and privacy was on board.

    Do you think the leadership presented by either of the two old parties is good enough anymore? I think we need a new party, with a leadership that doesn’t rely on polling to make the right decisions. Have you heard of the Justice Party? What do you think of Rocky Anderson’s candidacy? (www.voterocky.org has some video links)

  • Anonymous

    I support the actions taken by the internet establishment, the “nerds” that some in Congress wanted to exclude when drafting the bill(s).  If this was a step to achieve some sort of “net neutrality”, then it was the right thing to do.  If President Obama loses the support of the uneducated voter to keep the support of his liberal base and others who take the time to consider what is the right thing to do, then it was the right thing to do politically as well.  A few more of these actions by our leaders that take what the 99% of the country want and need might actually bring on a new day for our leaders in Washington.

  • David F., N.A.

    Hmm…GradyLeeHoward, GradyLeeHoward…where have I heard that name before?  Didn’t you used to post on Bill O’Reilly’s blog?  Oh wait, now I remember.  I got my Bill’s all mixed up (a dishonest mistake).  I went to your blog several months ago, but it was down.   So how have you been?  I’m still yelling at foolish liberals, or should I say neoconservaDem drones.

  • Guest

    Thank god for Bill Moyers. Wow we missed and need him. This interview with Dan Stockman is all you need to understand where we are. And who else but Bill Moyers would have brought it to us?

  • Rowdy

    It’s going to take a lot more than that gesture. But the Net is very, very important to us puppies when the excreta hits the fan. You saw how important it was in the spring unrisings. Although I would guess they could shut it off. Gonna be a whole lot of crying, wining, and bleeding in our future.

  • Northernwriter

    As someone who manages a band that has lost several hundred thousand dollars due to piracy, I have a somewhat different view. I see that same sense of “entitlement” that the bankers have reflected in those who steal our music and many of those who are against SOPA. What they are really against is having to pay the creators for all that free intellectual property.

    I have read a few very lucid comments on the worry about free speech etc. but mostly I have seen the corporations that make billions from the searches for copyrighted works fearful of losing part of their income and so, they yell the “free speech” equivalent of “fire ” on the internet.

    I read as well that there are laws on the books now that would enforce creators rights just fine, but when those laws were used, an uproar ensued. When individuals with large numbers of files were prosecuted, (and found guilty not by the RIAA but a jury of their peers), the vitriol that was heaped on the music industry was incessant. The other day when Megauploads was shut down, a similar scorn has surfaced on many sites.

    So, damned if you do and damned if you don’t. What really surprises me is that the call for a share of the ISP fees for creators of intellectual property has met with such resistance. Quite frankly, as someone who is about as center left as you can get, I am surprised at all of the support by liberals for those corporations that are stealing from the creators. The record companies did it for years and now it is the public’s turn to screw the artist.

    My band members, who should be able to afford a small house and have prospects of securing their future with their talent are working in Starbucks and borrowing money from their parents etc. And…. please don’t tell me to go out and tour and make all that money from people who have stolen our music because they love us; that doesn’t work that way.

    So, for those who want to rant against the government, maybe at the same time you will preach some respect for the creators and back that up with your money. Only about 10% are doing that now.

  • Kenegbert3rd

    I think that the bills specified here IMHO had their merits, but they tightened things a bit too much.  When my son was 13 he had a friend who was a big Soundgarden fan, as was I.  I had a copy of their SUPERUNKNOWN CD and he wanted me to send him a copy of it.  My response was ‘Go buy it yourself.  I own the copy of the music, not the music itself.’  This upset him, and he  would not have been the only one.   So there is a need for legislation.  The artist deserves to be paid for copies of his/her/their work, be it movies, music, anything which can be digitally transferred.  Just let’ s not make digital creativity difficult to access as well.  Good one, as always, Bill!  Once again, welcome back!  And in the future let’s recall what it takes to wake certain politicians up from their corporate-money-induced torpor. 

  • Jeff Sherry

    SOPA and PIPA have been put on hold, not killed. My biggest worry about both of the bills is the possibilty of the laws being used to quash dissent or thought on the internet.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure you recall my posting on  Bill Moyers Journal, as I do yours.
    I have been ill with a broken leg and an infection but am recovering.
    We can still access our old work at the Journal blog.
    I have posted at DRShow, the WAMU Conversation, Truthdig and On Point among many others. Sometimes my wife and friends expand my work under the GLH brand. We resemble Spartacus in that way. I am still producing documentaries and speculating  intermittently in commodities from my Hoveround in NJ. It can be confusing remembering exactly what my views are. I start fresh upon waking. David Eddy and Fran G. are two other old companions I’ve bumped into here. I went to Zucotti Park in a wheelchair and led the Peoples mike back in November. That was awesome!

  • Anonymous

    Phonetic kinship of the name: Greedily How Weird

  • Anonymous

    As I intimated below; I think the cat’s out the bag and there’s no going back.
    Creativity gets distorted in a police state. People have to accept new ways of paying for entertainment and rewarding talent. Maybe a better culture will result.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t let love for a band make you a goody-goody. Musicians labor for decades before they emerge from corporate indenture  simply because they loved music and were finagled into a long contract. I do hate that Indies are hurt by pirates (mostly resellers). Now my friends are on the road selling over the counter T-shirts, limited issues with copy protection and other junk. But in the outcome we come to realize we are all capable of creative acts and come to see how open sharing is a natural thing. It took a long time for people to understand how live performance is qualitatively different from earbuds, but they did. Entertainment forms have failed to evolve because of business needs. “We never listen to the record company man. He’d try to screw us and ruin our band.” (Neil Young-That’s Why, We don’t Wanna Be Good)
    How tragic when something freely shared is copyrighted by a corporation and locked away. In the same way we are beginning to see a world where all are guaranteed housing and food and medical care; we can also imagine a revolution in arts where every act can be construed as original potential expression. Why abort such a healthy fetus? Just so the 1% can enhance their income stream. (Ain’t  you noticed just how bad big studio movies are getting?)

  • Anonymous

    A concise version of one point I tried to make, very good.

  • jan

    “Did the ‘Netizen Revolt’ Kill PIPA?”

    No.  If its anything like the National Animal Identification System, they’ll bring it back at least once a year till it passes.  The people pushing these restrictive bills are not people who take “no” for an answer.  What people want means nothing to them.   

  • David Eddy

    We need a ‘Citizen’s Revolt” and demand no more big money investments in elections.
    It amounts to politicians to the highest bidder.
    Maybe working people withdrawing all investments for a week would give the one per centers something to think about.

  • guest

    And as a former musician under contract to a big, bad record company, I’d like to know how paying artist’s 5 cents of every 20 dollars you take in doesn’t constitute slavery. Artists don’t notice the drop in sales, corporate does.

  • Kenegbert3rd

         I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie, so I can’t disagree with gradyleehoward on his last point.  Where the central subject of his reply is concerned, to quote the Koran (chapter 11, verse 83):  ‘O my people!  Give full measure and full weight, in justice,  and wrong not people in respect of their goods.’  Muslim I’m not, but Mohammed nailed it that time.  Anybody who works hard should  get something for it, even if it’s only a few nickels.  Who knows how many copies of that Soundgarden CD my son’s friend would have made?  How many copies would they have made?  Even nickels pile up.
          I do agree with gradyleehoward that the music industry is a draining swamp (viz. the lyrics to the Byrds’  1965 hit ‘So You Want to Be a Rock’n’Roll Star’);  but nobody’s aborting anything if he’s following the existing rules.  If the rules are wrong, then they should be changed, not broken constantly to the point that they (and, eventually, the society that contains them) lose even more of their meaning than they already have done.  Again, if the society is wrong, let’s change that too.  Right now.  I also make it a point to buy something at the band merchandise table whenever I see a gig by anybody, so that the band will get the majority of those bucks.  They deserve it.  The record company doesn’t.   Now, if Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil says it’s OK to give my son’s friend a copy of SUPERUNKNOWN… but he’s too smart for that.
         One point that gradyleehoward did not make which has just occurred to me is, given how Ric Ocasek of the newly-reformed Cars noted the irony of getting back together when there was almost no longer a record industry… well, if we wait a little longer it’ll all be academic.  As long as the artist can support themselves, I’m happy.  Thanks for giving us houseroom on your site, Bill.  Keep ’em coming.

  • Anonymous

    Vaudeville died for good reasons. At some point the extant technology makes the old rules almost unenforceable. To attempt to enforce outdated rules produces a police state because of all the invasions of privacy and the enforcement apparatus involved, and it becomes costly in both prices and taxes. (I am not a Libertarian drone, just practical.)

    You may be confusing your affection for old music with an affinity for outdated rules. If people are creative types they will eventually find a way to get paid. They do need to get management off their backs. A burrow can’t carry an elephant, and only sadists would pay to see it done.

    I predict that no technology will stop bit torrent and even more sophisticated sharing strategies without getting right up in our crotches and heads. Smart bands already say: pay what you can; pay what it is worth to you: and some of them succeed using that honor code. Less than 5% of viewers contribute to PBS but it keeps going.

  • Kenegbert3rd

     I certainly can’t disagree with most of what gradyleehoward says here, but will dissent slightly on 3 things.  One: if rules are still in place despite their unenforceability, and they are exactly that,  it is because  we as a society have not yet got it together enough to change them.  Therefore we need to get it together and get them changed, and changed now.  Thank heaven for the Occupy movement!  The fault is not in our music stars but in ourselves, as Cassius doesn’t say in Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR.  While  the debate goes on, remote as the possibility is that it makes a difference, I’m not going to deny any of my favorite artists their nickels.  As long as it is fair to the artist, I as a non-artist but as a supporter of them will not kvetch at a new set of rules.  Just let’s arrive at them sooner than later, thanks!    Two: old music?  I don’t concur.  Soundgarden reformed last year and sounded better than they  did on their ’96 tour.   They’re working on new material now.  Not germane  to the discussion, no, and grunge is a wave that for all intents crashed before they broke up in ’97, but a clarification.   Three:  Creative persons better serve their society when they don’t need to spend too much of their time trying to figure out how to be remunerated for their services to society.   Again, let’s change these damned rules.
          Gradyleehoward’s last paragraph here is dead on.  That the honor code may partially  be the wave of the future is the best news that nobody (with the possible exception of Bill M., of course) has reported.   Although the 95% who watch but do not contribute to PBS are not geting any kudos from me.
    Pay what you can.  Thanks once again for allowing us this thread, Bill.  To colloquialize, ‘You da man.’