hands off our internet
It’s starting to feel like someone declared war on Internet piracy earlier this year while we were busy reading Reddit. But while the battle over Internet laws continues, the discussion sparked by anti-piracy legislation earlier this year seems to have disappeared.
The fight now centers on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that the European Union signed in January. This still-murky law, most of which was crafted quietly behind closed doors, has potential to threaten those who make the Internet their livelihood. So where are the Internet masses who came out in full force, blocking out websites and amassing in person in protest of the twin anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA?
Anonymous clobbered several dot-gov web addresses early Friday, including Consumer.gov and NCPW.gov, the website for information on National Consumer Protection Week. The hacker(s) posted a German-language anti-A.C.T.A. video and an anti-security (#antisec) rant explaining their rationale for the action:
IN YOUR FACE!
At the Paley Center for Media yesterday, New York tech’s paterfamilias Fred Wilson offered something largely absent from recent anti-SOPA debates: a plan for an alternative. Better yet, he wasn’t just preaching to the choir. Rather, the Union Square Ventures managing partner broke on through to the other side: media execs.
Last month, he seemed frustrated, tweeting out “#screwcable” when a feud between MSG and Time Warner Cable forced Mr. Wilson to consume pirated content if he wanted to see the (pre-Linsanity) Knicks. But during yesterday’s talk, Mr. Wilson seemed more convinced of the universality of the condition.
Megaupload/Megavideo was shut down by the Federal Government last week! It was sad. Also—coincidentally, or not—right around the time SOPA and PIPA, the anti-piracy legislation meant to prevent sites like Megaupload from ever doing business, died their own lame legislative deaths.
A week later, the Recording Industry Association of America has issued a press release basically dancing over the grave of the cloud-upload site.
Fresh of the heels of feeling its own might in the fight against SOPA and PIPA, a civic-minded Redditor who goes by the handle “ajpos” has decided to start a section 527 political action committee.
It’s called Test Pac, it has its own Tax ID number and it purports to represent “the special interest group that represents the views of Reddit’s users,” which we guess means boobs, the free flow of information, weed, and cats. In that order.
However, as Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin informed us, it’s not Reddit’s first “unofficial” PAC. Under the subreddit /r/rpac, you can also find threads about Hive PAC (another recent organization inspired by the SOPA Opera), as well as The OSDF, or Open Source Democracy, an older initiative.
Goooood Morning Silicon Alley!
Anti-piracy rhetoric holds that online piracy is a devastating force on the U.S. economy, responsible for the theft of between $200 billion and $250 billion per year and the loss of 750,000 good American jobs. “These numbers seem truly dire: a $250 billion per year loss would be almost $800 for every man, woman, and child in America. And 750,000 jobs – that’s twice the number of those employed in the entire motion picture industry in 2010,” write the economists over at Freakonomics.
But those numbers are wrong, the authors say, citing a breakdown by the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez.
This is a guest post from Gary Sharma (aka “The Guy with the Red Tie”), Founder of GarysGuide, Mentor at ER Accelerator and proud owner of a whole bunch of black suits, white shirts and, at last count, over 40 red ties. You can follow him at @garysguide and reach him via email at gary [at] garysguide.com.
Takeaway #1: Speed of Grassroots To Mainstream
The fight against SOPA/PIPA was under the radar for many folks for a long time but when it did finally break through to get attention, it was heartening to see the speed and intensity with which the entire tech industry, from the grassroots all the way up to the Googles and the Wikipedias, quickly rallied around and came together to fight for the freedom of the Internet and won! Chalk that one up as another win for social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook that are making it really easy for people to come together, get their voices heard and take action around common worthwhile causes as happened during the Arab Spring revolution.
A new report from sentiment analytics firm General Sentiment shows, astoundingly, that the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts have not only been discussed online more than any other legislation, but they’ve been discussed more than the Super Bowl the Oscars, the Oprah Winfrey Show finale and the American Idol finale and premiere. “When compared to 2011’s biggest online events, the SOPA/PIPA Protest ranked third in overall volume,” the report says. Guess that means SOPA/PIPA were discussed more than any other legislation, too. Additionally: “Wikipedia proved to be the top influencer, generating over 4.1M mentions on January 18; 99.1 percent of mentions about the SOPA and PIPA Protest came from social media and Twitter; and the most common hashtags were #wikipediablackout, #StopSOPA and #FactsWithoutWikipedia.
The self-proclaimed geeks of the New York tech industry gathered outside senators’ Gillibrand and Schumer’s office Wednesday afternoon to protest the PIPA and SOPA acts, that they say will lead to the end of the internet as we know it.
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, brought sympathy cards which he planned to hand-deliver to the senators, mourning the death of the internet.
Scott Heiferman, Meetup CEO, held up a sign after his speech that read, “Can we go back to work now?” in a cunning reference to the jobs the industry creates in New York, and perhaps the cold weather too.
Well now we know why we haven’t been able to access at the Department of Justice’s press release about its raid on Megaupload for the past few hours!
The websites for the U.S. Justice Department, the Recording Industry Association of America, Motion Picture Association of America, and Universal Music Group have all been down this afternoon. As TPMIdeaLab reports, hackers who associate themselves with Anonymous are taking credit. Twitter accounts like @YourAnonNews and @AnonOps claim the attacks are in retaliation for today’s shutdown and arrests related to the file sharing site Megaupload.