1/20/12 UPDATE: The Senate cloture vote on PIPA has been postponed.
Yesterday's anti-blacklist legislation protests were fantastically successful - in the past 24 hours, key lawmakers have withdrawn their support for the proposed legislation or come out against it - but we still have a long way to go in the fight to stop SOPA and PIPA from becoming law. On Monday the 23rd, the Senate is back in session and scheduled to vote on PIPA the next day. Now, more than ever, it's important to keep the pressure on, so call your Senator and tell him or her that it's time to stand with the Internet and against the Internet blacklist bills!
You can RVSP for our call-in day on Facebook and check back at our Action Center for instructions and suggestions about how to talk to your lawmakers about this important issue.
Yesterday, in the largest online protest in Internet history, more than 115,000 websites altered millions of web pages to stand in opposition to SOPA and PIPA, the Internet blacklist bills. Some sites — Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing, Craigslist and others — completely shut down for the day, replacing their sites with material to educate the public about the bill’s dangers. Others, like Google and Mozilla, sent users to a petition or action center to express their concerns to Congress.
While the final results are still being tabulated, EFF alone helped users send over 1,000,000 emails to Congress, and countless more came from other organizations. Web traffic briefly brought down the Senate website. 162 million people visited Wikipedia and eight million looked up their representatives’ phone numbers. Google received over 7 million signatures on their petition. Talking Points Memo has a great round up of more of the staggering numbers. The sum of the protest, as the New York Times declared, sent “an unmistakable message to lawmakers grappling with new media issues: Don’t mess with the Internet.”
And members of Congress were quick to react.
Republican Marco Rubio started the day by announcing his opposition, despite formerly being a co-sponsor. South Carolina Republican and tea party favorite Jim DeMint soon followed, as long did longtime Senator Orrin Hatch. Even ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa “withdrew his support for a bill he helped write.” Senator Rand Paul went further, saying he was committed to filibustering the bill and he will “do everything in [his] power to stop government censorship of the Internet.”
Democratic Senators also voiced their opposition to PIPA. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley thanked constituents for sending him so many emails and said he would vote against the bill. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also announced he would not support PIPA as written. The popular Senate candidate from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, also said she opposed PIPA and SOPA, stating they "risk chilling the innovation, diversity & free exchange of ideas that define the Internet." (Her opponent, Scott Brown, also opposed PIPA the day before.)
All told, the Senate gained19 NO votes yesterday, including seven who were previously co-sponsors of the bill, according to Ars Technica. The House followed the same pattern. A few members even blacked out their own websites in solidarity with the protests. After 24 hours of online darkness, the House now has at least 87 opponents of SOPA, and only 27 on-the-record supporters.
January 18th was a truly historic day for Internet activism. Pro Publica reported the day before the blackout, there were 80 on-the-record supporters and 31 opponents in all of Congress. The day after, there are now 101 opponents and only 65 supporters—and that number is still changing. Rep. Zoe Lofgren summed up the accomplishments when she said, “Too often, legislation is about competing business interests. This is way beyond that. This is individual citizens rising up.”
Unfortunately, PIPA and SOPA are still very much alive. According to Open Congress, there are still 33 co-sponsors of PIPA. With the Senate bringing PIPA to the floor next week, we cannot expect the content groups to give up without a fight. The entertainment industry is already threatening to cut off campaign donations to President Obama’s re-election campaign. Chief lobbyist of the MPAA, Chris Dodd, also lashed out at the blackout yesterday, saying it was a “gimmick,” and even “dangerous.”
Dodd, whose industry outspent the tech sector 13-1 in Congress, oddly called the political protest “an abuse of power.” But as yesterday proved, most Americans believe the vast authority given to corporations and the government to permanently shut down websites under PIPA and SOPA would be the real “abuse of power.”
Yesterday was a defining moment for the global Internet community. The effects of the massive online blackout in protest of U.S. Internet blacklistlegislation, SOPA and PIPA (H.R. 3261 and S. 968), were felt around the world as countless numbers of websites, including Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit, BoingBoing, Flickr, Wired, and many others joined in the global action against over-broad and poorly drafted copyright laws that would break the fundamental architecture of the Internet. To quote [pdf] last year’s landmark Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion: “...Censorship measures should never be delegated to a private entity, and [..] no one should be held liable for content on the Internet of which they are not the author...” The massive opposition from both companies and individuals around the world demonstrates how much these and similar laws would hurt business and innovation, and most importantly, restrict online free expression.
But SOPA and PIPA are really only the tip of the iceberg. The same forces behind these domestic U.S. laws have continued to both push for other states to pass similar domestic laws, as well as to secretly negotiate international trade agreements that would force signatory nations to conform to the same legal standards. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Ley Doring (Mexico), Ley Sinde (Spain), Ley Hadopi (France) are only a few examples. Members of the copyright industry lobby such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) are funneling huge amounts of resources into getting states to pass inherently flawed copyright enforcement laws. What results are laws that encroach on national sovereignty, overstep traditional principles of jurisdiction, harm innovation, and ultimately violate users’ rights.
Digital civil liberties activists and organizations internationally found the day of online action to be a golden opportunity to educate their constituents on the effects such laws would have on websites in their countries and the future of the free and open Internet. Recognizing the common thread of overbroad enforcement and technical defects that runs through these bills, the following organizations have taken a stance against the efforts of special interests to censor citizens and kill innovation in the name of preserving the entertainment industry’s business model.
U.S. spreads overbroad IP enforcement measures through secretive international agreements and threats towards trade sanctions
In recent years major copyright industry lobbyists have sought stronger power to enforce their copyrights across the world to preserve their business models. These efforts have been underway in a number of international fora including the G8 summit, transnational trade agreements such as ACTA and TPP, and the AnnualSpecial 301 Process--a report with tiered “watch lists” of countries with supposedly deficient intellectual property laws and enforcement policies. As U.S. PublicInterestGroups and EUScholars have noted, SOPA includes a provision designed to further entrench U.S. IP rightsholders’ influence on other countries’ laws and policies. While the passage of SOPA and PIPA could certainly have longstanding consequences for societies and economies around the world, we hope the enormous attention shed on these two Internet blacklist bills raises international awareness of the impact of these copyright enforcement proposals sought by U.S. IP rightsholders worldwide.
This site has gone dark today in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA) discussed in the US Congress, as well as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), currently debated in the European Parliament. These initiatives amount to a global attempt to censor the Internet in the name of copyright.
[SOPA and PIPA] is yet one more example of the harms that can result for an overly aggressive, no holds barred, U.S.-drivenIPagenda. It imposes more restrictive standards on foreign intermediaries than the U.S. requires of its own Internet companies through its DMCA notice-takedown regime.
The Chilean digital rights advocacy group, DerechosDigitales, also framed their position against SOPA in light of the overreaching international copyright enforcement regimes:
So while many of us speak out against the U.S. bill, the governments of Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and the United States are moving quickly on a new international agreement that reproduces one of the greatest threats of SOPA: censorship of Internet sites for possible infringements of copyright, giving police powers to Internet service providers. (Read here and here in Spanish)
If only half of the proposed legislation comes into force, this is going to have a huge negative impact on the internet. ACTA, PIPA and SOPA are of similar kind: Music and film industries try to destroy the net slice for slice – the so called salami tactics.
SOPA and PIPA would disrupt national sovereignty and harm local economies
In countries where policymakers are currently debating the need for website blocking proposals, the adoption of SOPA or PIPA will create pressure to mirror U.S. law regardless of any empirical evidence of its effectiveness or appropriateness. What is most disconcerting for individuals and enterprises outside the U.S. is the way in which SOPA and PIPA could effectively override their countries' national laws and impose more restrictive standards on foreign Internet intermediaries than it does on U.S. Internet companies.
50 humanrightsorganizations from around the world signed a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in opposition to PIPA, highlighting its serious jurisdictional and freedom of expression concerns:
…Creating a mechanism that requires a representative of a website to make a court appearance in the U.S. in order to defend themselves against an allegation of infringement would disproportionately impact smaller online communities and start-ups based abroad that do not have the capacity to address concerns in the United States.
OpenRightsGroupbased in the United Kingdom also emphasized the due process implications of these overbroad U.S. Internet blacklist bills:
There are two reasons that Open Rights Group are supporting a protest aimed at US laws. First, the overly broad definitions and wording of the bills put any websites at risk of action from US authorities. Second, we face many of the issues with these copyright-related bills here in the UK: inappropriate enforcement measures, in particular website blocking; overly-broad or vague definitions and wording; and weaknesses in due process and redress.
MichaelGeist, a leading Canadian legal scholar on digital civil liberties and copyright, drewattention to the impact SOPA would have in Canada and its parallels with ACTA and TPP:
While SOPA is proposed U.S. legislation, it has implications for all Canadians, including provisions that treat all Canadian IP addresses as if they were subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Moreover, Canada faces the same relentless copyright lobbying campaign. From the much-criticized digital lock rules found in Bill C-11 to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to the proposal to extend the term of copyright protection in the Trans Pacific Partnership, Canadian copyright policy is increasingly shaped by the same groups promoting SOPA.
[PIPA/SOPA] would raise the cost of participation on [social media and other user generated sites] for all users worldwide, and could force many social media projects to shut down, especially smaller websites and businesses.
As Canadian Internet users and online innovators, we have a lot to lose if SOPA is passed. SOPA could fundamentally reshape the Internet in the U.S., Canada, and the rest of the world. … Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gary Doer (Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S.) that Canadians are against SOPA.
Threatens human rights and access to information worldwide
Most of the criticism regarding SOPA and PIPA has focused on the way the bills would institute massive online censorship and fundamentally break the Internet in the name of intellectual property enforcement. These bills would encompass any foreign site accessible from the U.S. and give corporations and other private parties new powers to censor websites from around the world with court orders that would cut off domain names, payment processors, and advertisers.
InternetGovernanceCaucus, an international coalition of civil society organizations and individuals around the world participating at the UN Internet Governance Forum reaffirmed the free speech implications of Internet blacklist legislation:
We have made a decision to join the black out in protest of the arbitrary censorship of the Internet which violates people’s rights to responsibly use the Internet. We note with increasing concern the the various censorship mechanisms around the world including but not limited to India’s Intermediary Guideline Rules (IGR) nor the United States of America’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Any country’s censorship mechanisms affect ordinary Internet users all over the world.
AmnestyInternational, a globally recognized organization fighting injustice and promoting human rights, noted that “[PIPA and SOPA] would create a powerful and unprecedented market incentive to censor user generated content. And their passage would signal very clearly to countries around the world that it is OK to sacrifice some rights in the name of some other good.”
Greenpeace, a global environmental organization sharply denounced the laws:
If SOPA/PIPA become law, sites like Greenpeace.org could go dark simply because one of our corporate targets files a claim that its intellectual property rights have been violated. No proof required, no court hearing.
Article 19, an international freedom of expression organization, stated:
[PIPA/SOPA] will stifle free speech, innovation and undermine Internet security, all for the sake of Hollywood studios.
Wednesday’s blackout day signifies a new era for the global digital civil liberties movement. Through blogs, tweets, and posts, thousands of organizations, activists, and individuals truly made it the success that it was. This has only been a sample of the great advocacy work that took place yesterday. Here are some other organizations, groups, activists and even political parties who participated on this very important day for the future of the Internet:
Today was a truly inspiring day in Internet history. Working together, we sent a powerful message to Big Media and the misguided proponents of the Internet blacklist legislation: we will not stand idly by and let you hamper innovation, kill jobs, wreak havoc on Internet security, and undermine free speech. Supporters of SOPA and PIPA say the Internet Blackout day was a "publicity stunt." We say it was a wake-up call.
EFF's anti-blacklist crew gathers around laptops showing websites participating in the protest
The numbers are pretty amazing. More than 1 million messages (and counting!) were sent to Congress today via the EFF action center. More than 4.5 million people signed Google's petition registering their opposition to the bills. And that's just the beginning. Many lawmakers abandoned the legislation (at least 13 senators today alone!) and we expect to see more defections as a result of today's protests.
January 28th is Data Privacy Day, also known as International Privacy Day. To celebrate, EFF is calling on users to protect online privacy by in three ways: download HTTPS Everywhere to ensure you use HTTPS when possible; help us catalog sites that are using HTTPS by contributing to HTTPS Now; and, if you administer a site, commit to enabling HTTPS support in 2012.
HTTPS is a protocol that provides secure Internet transactions between web browsers and web sites. You can check to see if the web page you are visiting uses HTTPS by making sure that the URL at the top of your browser begins with HTTPS rather than HTTP. The "S" stands for secure. Some browsers also indicate that you are using a secure connection by displaying a closed lock in the corner of the browser.
HTTPS protects users from certain kinds of Internet surveillance. By encrypting your connection, HTTPS prevents eavesdroppers from seeing the contents of your communication with a website, including potentiallysensitive data such as the contents of your email and chats, login credentials, search terms, and credit card numbers. Many sites support the use of HTTPS, but may not turn it on by default. Other sites have failed to implement HTTPS at all.
The rise of open wireless networks in coffee shops and libraries means that users are sharing network connections with strangers everyday, and tools like Firesheep and Wireshark make it a trivial matter for individuals with minimal technical knowledge to eavesdrop on what users are reading and writing online. To safeguard the privacy of our reading habits on the Internet, we need to encrypt the web. And that means websites - from online newspapers to social networks to email providers to online stores - need to take the initiative and start enabling HTTPS.
In order to make sure that you are using the secure version of a website when one is available, EFF recommends using our HTTPS Everywhere browser extension for Firefox. If a website that you visit supports HTTPS, but is not included in the HTTPS Everywhere database, you can submit a new rule.
Want to help EFF track and analyze the implementation of HTTPS around the web? Look around the web to see what sites are HTTPS-enabled and report them to HTTPS Now. They've got instructions on how to test a site's support for HTTPS and report it to the community.
Remember, HTTPS is not an anonymity tool. Eavesdroppers can still see where you are connecting from and the sites you are connecting to, and the sites themselves can still track and record your activity. EFF recommends using Tor if you are concerned about anonymity.
Website administrators and companies
If you are a site admin who would like to protect users' privacy by enabling HTTPS on your site, EFF has these suggestions. Once you have enabled HTTPS on your site, please submit a new rule to HTTPS Everywhere. If you are planning to implement HTTPS on your website in 2012 as part of International Data Privacy Day, please email Jolynn Dellinger at email@example.com so your site can be recognized on the International Data Privacy Day page.
As protests against the U.S. bills SOPA and PIPA sweep the world, Singaporeans are under threat of censorship from their own government. According to Channel News Asia, Singapore Minister for Law K Shanmugam recently revealed that his ministry is in discussion with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) over piracy issues. At an event organized by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), Shanmugam reportedly stated: "We will have to work with the ISPs. And the government will have to work with the ISPs and whether it should be a voluntary regime vis-a-vis the ISPs, or whether it should be legislated."
As the New Asia Republic (which is proudly displaying an anti-SOPA banner) explained, Singapore is a party to the United States Free Trade Agreement (USFTA) and the yet-to-be-passed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and therefore must commit to similar legislation should SOPA or PIPA become law in the United States.
On Shanmugam's own Facebook page, where the minister posted a link to the aforementioned Channel News Asia article, Singaporeans have left numerous comments protesting the potential move. One citizen wrote:
Adopting a law (similar to SOPA or PIPA) will not just be detrimental to the freedom of speech online, but will also have economic consequences to Singapore.
Both web/tech start-ups and multinational corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon (who are already opponents to both PIPA/SOPA) who have set up operations in Singapore may move out because the legislation are biased towards one group of industry players in the content space.
We hope that you can reconsider and not enact a law that has profound consequences to the development of the ICT and digital media space.
Just as SOPA and PIPA would effectively blacklist websites in the United States and around the world, such would be the case with laws born in other states backed by the same special interests. EFF will be following the developments in Singapore closely as they attempt to forge anti-infringement legislation similarly formulated with little to no understanding of their impact on free speech or innovation online.
Join our action against Internet Blacklist Legislation.
If you are not a U.S. resident, follow this link and scroll down to sign the petition to the U.S. State Department.
Today, we watch in awe as the Internet rallies to fight dangerous blacklist legislation, the PROTECT-IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House. The originality, creativity, and magnitude of action we’re seeing represents exactly what these bills would harm most: the value of a vibrant and open Internet that fosters these activities.
As the day goes on, we will continue to update you on Twitter (@EFF) and in this space. In the meantime, here are some of today’s #SOPAblackout highlights. Thank these organizations for their participation and go here to make your voice heard!
Even the Motion Picture Association of America, a major supporter of the bills, was forced to acknowledge the impact of today's
protest, criticizing websites for going dark for a day when "people rely on them for information." If a day without these websites is "irresponsible," as the MPAA says, how much more irresponsible is giving the Justice Department, or the MPAA itself, the power to shut them down, or cut off their funding, without notice?
The MPAA's statement ended with a cry for help to "the White House and the Congress" to stop today's protests. But after today, when Internet users emerged as a political force, uniting across party lines against a real threat to the world's most democratic communications medium, our government may not be so quick to jump at MPAA's call.
Join EFF and websites across the world in protesting the dangerous censorship legislation currently pending in Congress.
On January 18th, EFF will join websites across the world in standing up against the proposed blacklist bills (SOPA in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate). EFF is calling on websites to be part of the protest by blacking out their logos, posting statements opposing the bills, and linking to our action center. Websites are also encouraged to follow the powerful examples of Reddit, Wikipedia and others by “blacking out” their entire site for a day. If you do choose to take down your website in protest, please be sure to post a message about why you oppose the blacklist bills and consider linking to the EFF action center so site visitors can take the next step and contact Congress.
On the 18th, EFF will censor our banner logo and black out the background of eff.org. We’ve also created a new activism platform at http://blacklist.eff.org. Sites are encouraged to direct traffic here so users can contact Congress to make their voices heard in opposition to this misguided censorship legislation.
The blacklist bills are dangerous: if made into law, they would hamper innovation, kill jobs, wreak havoc on Internet security, and undermine the free speech principles upon which our country was founded. But deep-pocketed lobbyists are trying to ram this legislation through as quickly as possible, hoping elected officials will turn a blind eye to the widespread opposition to these bills. We can’t let that happen.
January 18th is just the beginning. We’re also gearing up for a day of action on January 23rd when the Senate will be back in session and getting ready to vote on the Protect-IP Act, SOPA’s sister bill. We’re calling on digital activists and Internet users everywhere to call Senators on the 24th and voice their opposition to this censorship legislation. Despite the chorus of opposition from human rights advocates and the tech community, Senators are still trying to push through this dangerous censorship bill. We need all hands on deck to make sure that doesn’t happen.
If you love the interactive, speech-friendly, decentralized digital world of the Internet as much as we do, then please join us in fighting these dangerous bills.