Then Wednesday happened, and suddenly everyone seemed to understand how serious this was. Wikipedia went dark, and the country wailed; we realized how much we have come to depend on the crowdsourced encyclopedia. Google hung a black sash on its logo. Crowds marched in protest. Facebook issued an uncharacteristically political statement (although we urged it to go further). Network news could not fail to take note.
In short: the Internet got its act together, and the world shook.
SOPA’s co-sponsors began to withdraw that day. By Thursday night, the GOP candidates for president were trying to outdo each other in anti-SOPA statements. Senate Republicans, also sensing a political opportunity, tried to hang the PIPA bill (SOPA’s sister in the Senate) around the Democrats’ necks. Finally, on Friday, SOPA and PIPA were withdrawn. Given a tight congressional timetable, and the toxic nature of these bills, it’s unlikely we’ll see them again.
True, we’re not out of the woods yet. There are few lobbyist organizations as deep-pocketed as the MPAA and the RIAA, and they have a long history of choosing to fight new technology with legislation (even if that technology actually benefits the entertainment industry in the long run). This battle may well have to be fought all over again — hopefully over a less draconian bill.
But there is a sense in which these mega-lobbyists are running scared. They woke a sleeping giant, and they don’t like the results. Witness the strange response from Chris Dodd, former senator and new head of the MPAA, who called the actions by Wikipedia, Google et al “stunts that punish their users or turn them into corporate pawns.” Given how many pawns the MPAA effectively owns in Congress, it was hard to suppress a grin at that.
So, well done, Internet. You did it. You took a relatively obscure bill and you made the world care. One concerted day of action by you shook Washington to its core. Lobbyists like Dodd who have had too much unquestioned control for too long got served notice. There’s a new power player in town; not one man in a suit, but millions of faces with electronic megaphones. And this power player doesn’t take kindly to bills that threaten its behavior.
Take heed, legislators. Want to stamp out online piracy, or regulate any other corner of the new digital landscape? In the future, you’d better come talk to the millions with megaphones first.
Thanks for a post by Chris Taylor (via Mashable).
Chris Taylor, a veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience, heads up Mashable’s editorial team. He oversees the development of reporters, while working closely with Mashable’s editor-in-chief to select, develop and coordinate news coverage across the site. Hailing from the U.K., Chris got his start working on a variety of national newspapers in London and Glasgow. He moved to the U.S. in 1996, and became senior news writer for Time.com a year later. In 2000, he was named San Francisco bureau chief for Time magazine. In the past five years, he has served as senior editor for Business 2.0, West Coast editor for Fortune Small Business and West Coast web editor for Fast Company. Chris is a graduate of Merton College, Oxford and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is also a long-time volunteer at 826 Valencia, the nationwide after-school program co-founded by author Dave Eggers.