By Robert Romano — It is telling that on the same day the Wall Street Journal published a lead editorial in favor of legislation that would censor the Internet in the name of protecting copyright that the bill lost no less than 14 previous backers, who dropped their support of the legislation.
Eight were in the Senate alone, including Senators Marco Rubio, Jim Inhofe, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, John Boozman, David Vitter, Kelly Ayotte, and Roy Blunt. On the House side, former cosponsors Representatives Ben Quayle, Lee Terry, Dennis Ross, Steve Scalise, Tim Griffin and Tim Holden also bolted from a bill that can only be said to be imploding.
What was behind the defections? A flood of thousands of emails and phone calls from concerned Americans, prodded on by super-popular websites like Wikipedia.org that went dark on Jan. 18 in protest of the legislation. Instead of being able to look up information, the thousands of sites that went black urged regular users to contact their Senators and Congressmen in opposition to the bills.
It appears to be working, and more defections are expected. A number of previously undeclared legislators have also come out against the bill, striking a significant blow to the legislation’s momentum.
“Wikipedia and other websites are to be praised for going black today, and showing what the world might be like without websites that depend on user contributions,” commented Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson.
Wilson criticized provisions of the legislation for going too far in the name of protecting intellectual property. “Whether intended or not, SOPA and PIPA will result in a regime of censorship on the Internet, particularly targeted at sites that allow users to upload content without restriction,” he said, explaining, “Because of the broad language of the bills in both houses, any site that allegedly ‘facilitates’ features that could be used for posting copyrighted materials could be targeted, along with their revenue streams and visibility in search engines, by the government. The problem is that’s any site that allows uploading, which is practically every social network and blogging website on the Internet.”
It appears that the legislation may not even be necessary to protect copyright domestically, Wilson noted, pointing to federal law that’s been on the books for over a decade: “Existing protections under the Digital Copyright Millennium Act already provide for the removal of copyrighted material from user-based websites, and give safe harbor to sites that actively remove content that violates intellectual property. SOPA and PIPA will override those safe harbor provisions, and take the posture that websites are guilty until proven innocent.”
Wilson concluded, “In a free society, that is unacceptable. It is un-American.”
Fortunately, it appears the legacy media’s support for the bills is not helping it along. While new media sites like Wikipedia, Google, and Facebook were galvanizing hundreds of thousands of Americans against the legislation, leading to at least 14 defections, there were no reports of previous opponents of the legislation who had turned into supporters.
All of which may tell us a lot about how much weight the mainstream media even carries anymore.
By our count, that’s Wikipedia 14, Wall Street Journal 0.
Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.