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Sopa plans set to be shelved as Obama comes out against piracy legislation

Dominic Rushe, Guardian
Congressional leaders are preparing to shelve controversial legislation aimed at tackling online piracy after president Barack Obama said he would not support it.

California congressman Darrell Issa, an opponent of Sopa, the Stop Online Piracy Act, said he had been told by House majority leader Eric Cantor that there would be no vote unless there is consensus on the bill.

“The voice of the internet community has been heard. Much more education for members of Congress about the workings of the internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal,” said Issa.

The news is a major blow for Sopa’s backers in Hollywood, who had enjoyed broad support in Congress. But the Motion Pictures Association of America, one of the bill’s biggest sponsors, said it would continue to press for new laws.
(16 January 2012)

Wikipedia to shut for 24 hours to stop anti-piracy act

Yinka Adegoke, Reuters
Wikipedia, the popular community-edited online encyclopedia, will black out its English-language site for 24 hours to seek support against proposed U.S. anti-piracy legislation that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said threatens the future of the Internet.

The service will be the highest profile name to join a growing campaign starting at midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday that will see it black out its page so that visitors will only see information about the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
(16 January 2012)

Explainer: understanding Sopa
Dominic Rushe and Chris Moran, Guardian
Will 2012 see the end of the internet as we know it? The House Judiciary committee tried to finalize the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) before Christmas for a vote early next year. But fierce opposition – much of it online – seems to have given pause to the bill’s main author, Lamar Smith. He is now expected to hear from expert witnesses early next year before the bill goes to Congress. Watch this video for a guide to the fight that will likely become one of the big stories of the coming year
(December 2011)
Short video at original which summarizes the issue. -BA

How PIPA and SOPA Violate White House Principles Supporting Free Speech and Innovation

Trevor Timm, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Over the weekend, the Obama administration issued a potentially game-changing statement on the blacklist bills, saying it would oppose PIPA and SOPA as written, and drew an important line in the sand by emphasizing that it “will not support” any bill “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

Yet, the fight is still far from over. Even though the New York Times reported that the White House statement “all but kill[s] current versions of the legislation,” the Senate is still poised to bring PIPA to the floor next week, and we can expect SOPA proponents in the House to try to revive the legislation—unless they get the message that these initiatives must stop, now. So let’s take a look at the dangerous provisions in the blacklist bills that would violate the White House’s own principles by damaging free speech, Internet security, and online innovation:

The Anti-Circumvention Provision

In addition to going after websites allegedly directly involved in copyright infringement, a proposal in SOPA will allow the government to target sites that simply provide information that could help users get around the bills’ censorship mechanisms. Such a provision would not only amount to an unconstitutional prior restraint against protected speech, but would severely damage online innovation. And contrary to claims by SOPA’s supporters, this provision—at least what’s been proposed so far—applies to all websites, even those in the U.S.

As First Amendment expert Marvin Ammori points out, “The language is pretty vague, but it appears all these companies must monitor their sites for anti-circumvention so they are not subject to court actions ‘enjoining’ them from continuing to provide ‘such product or service.’” That means social media sites like Facebook or YouTube—bascailly any site with user generated content—would have to police their own sites, forcing huge liability costs onto countless Internet companies. This is exactly why venture capitalists have said en masse they won’t invest in online startups if PIPA and SOPA pass. Websites would be forced to block anything from a user post about browser add-ons like DeSopa, to a simple list of IP addresses of already-blocked sites.

Perhaps worse, EFF has detailed how this provision would also decimate the open source software community.
(16 January 2012)

Momentum shift: SOPA, PIPA opponents now in driver’s seat

Greg Sandoval, CNET
… SOPA and PIPA are backed by a wide range of copyright owners, including the six Hollywood film studios and the four major record companies. The bills would hand the U.S. Justice Department the ability to cut off access in the United States to Web sites based overseas accused of trading in pirated or counterfeit materials. It would also give the government the power to force credit card companies, online advertisers, and Internet service providers to cut off ties with accused pirates.

Opponents, which include a wide number of technology companies as well as free-speech advocates, say SOPA and PIPA would threaten free speech and stifle innovation.

The latest developments signal a shift in momentum. Last year, copyright owners could boast strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and a powerful friend in the White House. Now, after SOPA and PIPA opponents mounted a vigorous campaign against the bills, they have seen lawmakers give up on the Domain Name System (DNS) provisions in both pieces of legislation–the provisions that would have given the government the aforementioned power to force ISPs to block access to alleged overseas pirate sites.
(14 January 2012)

Rupert Murdoch Goes on Twitter Rampage Targeting Obama, Google

Peter Pachal, Mashable
Well, Rupert Murdoch, you’re officially a Twitter celebrity now.

Going down the road well trod by the likes of Charlie Sheen and Kevin Smith, the News Corp. CEO let loose a multiple-message Twitter rant over the weekend, targeting President Obama and Google over antipiracy legislation that the White House said it would not support. Google responded to the multi-tweet barrage, calling Murdoch’s stance “nonsense.”

Murdoch was apparently responding a White House statement that amounted to hedged opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, which proposes to give the government the power to cut off pirate sites from services like Google searches and PayPal as well as alter how the Internet recognizes those domains so even users manually typing in the URLs won’t find them. While the White House admitted piracy was a “serious problem,” it said it would not support legislation that “undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

The rant began early Saturday evening, when Murdoch posted the following tweet:

So Obama has thrown in his lot withSilicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery

Murdoch, as the head of a major media company, clearly has a large stake in the realm of online content and piracy. Murdoch has said or implied on many occasions that he considers even aggregating or linking to stories to be piracy, which is exactly what he did when he lumped Google into his pile of perceived piracy enablers with a subsequent tweet:

Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.

Google responded yesterday with a statement to CNET, saying, “This is just nonsense…”
(16 January 2012)