Tech companies boldly protest anti-piracy bills

SAN FRANCISCO: Websites including Reddit, Wikipedia, and Boing Boing darkened their websites on Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate.

SAN FRANCISCO: Websites including Reddit, Wikipedia, and Boing Boing darkened their websites on Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate.

Companies such as Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Mozilla, and Google kept their sites available but expressed opposition to the bills.

After a number of Web giants drew attention to the issue on Wednesday, various prominent legislators in both the House and Senate stepped away from the bills.

The Consumer Electronics Association also protested the bills, darkening its CE.org and DeclareInnovation.org sites on Wednesday. The technology industry association also sent an email blast to members to explain the legislation and ask them to contact their representatives in Congress.

“We're asking people to contact their members of Congress about SOPA and PIPA,” said Laura Hubbard, senior manager of policy and division communications at the CEA.

To help consumers reach their senators about these bills, the CEA provided letters that consumers can email and helped them find their representatives' social media pages. It also used its social media channels to distribute information about the laws, and pitched media outlets to place Op-Eds with their point of view.

“There's a huge groundswell right now of major players in the tech industry really stepping up their game today,” said Hubbard. “When Wikipedia said they were going dark, I think it brought a lot of attention to the issue, and so people are finding out information and then acting, so it's pretty fascinating to see how this grassroots movement to oppose this legislation has just taken off.”

The debate over SOPA and PIPA has pitted prominent companies in the entertainment industry against blue chips in the technology sector. While proponents of the bills claim they would strengthen and modernize laws against content piracy, critics contend they would damage free expression on the Web.

Lloyd Trufelman, president of Trylon SMR, said it was somewhat surprising to see many tech giants band together to protest the issue. Normally, the entertainment industry is known for having a solid PR strategy, but in this case, the tech industry seems to really have “knocked Hollywood flat down,” he said.

The tech sector turned a somewhat spontaneous grassroots media situation on an obscure legislative issue into a mass popular protest, Trufelman explained.

“It was sort of like the technology industry threw a red carpet event for copyright legislation today and a lot of people showed up for it,” he said.

Technology companies such as Google, Wikipedia, and Tumblr did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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