SOPA Controversy Explained

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Were SOPA/PIPA Protests a Success? The Results Are In

New York City demonstration against SOPA/PIPA, outside the Manhattan offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who co-sponsored the Senate PIPA bill. Photo Credit: IDGNS New York
Wednesday's online protests against two online antipiracy bills currently before Congress are being hailed as a success after sites such as BoingBoing, Reddit and Wikipedia temporarily shut down to oppose the Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and Protect IP (PIPA) Acts. As a result, more than 162 million people saw the protest message on Wikipedia, 18 senators have backed away from the proposed legislation, and 4.5 million people signed a petition against the acts.

The New York Times called Wednesday's online activism, that also included messages of protest from Craigslist, Google and Mozilla, "a political coming of age for the tech industry." While the Motion Picture Association of America's Chairman and CEO (and former U.S. Senator) Chris Dodd said on Tuesday the protests were an "abuse of power" that turned users into the tech industry's "corporate pawns" (PDF).

Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit, expressing his dismay at SOPA/PIPA, at a new York City demonstration against the pending legislation. Photo Credit: IDGNS New York
Many technology companies, especially Web-based companies, oppose SOPA and PIPA arguing the bills will undermine the free and open web. Critics say the legislation empowers the government and private parties to censor the Web for American Internet users by requiring search engines and Internet Service Providers to block access to websites accused of copyright infringement.

Now that the lights are back on at Wikipedia, BoingBoing is publishing, and Reddit users are once again commenting on cute puppy pictures here's a look at the fallout from Wednesday's protests and where the debate goes from here.

New York City demonstration against SOPA/PIPA. Photo Credit: IDGNS New York
-4.5 million people signed Google's anti-SOPA/PIPA petition, according to the Los Angeles Times

-25 Senators now oppose PIPA (the Senate version of SOPA), according to OpenCongress

-Twitter saw more than 2.4 million SOPA-related tweets between midnight and 4 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday

-Two SOPA co-sponsors and several others dropped support for the House bill

-More than 162 million people saw Wikipedia's protest page

-More than 8 million people used Wikipedia's search tool to look up their elected representatives' contact information

-News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch accused "the blogosphere" of "terrorizing many senators and congressmen who previously committed" to SOPA and PIPA.

-Conservative publication The National Review called on Congress to dump SOPA


What's Next?

While Wednesday's protests may have raised awareness about the antipiracy legislation's potentially negative impact on the Internet, the fight over how to deal with piracy continues. SOPA sponsor and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) recently vowed to continue working to get the antipiracy legislation passed. And advocacy organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy say the will continue opposing both SOPA and PIPA. The next Senate vote for PIPA is scheduled for January 24.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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