A prominent progressive advocacy organization is urging its supporters to sign an online petition against a highly controversial bill to regulate Internet content. That petition will help fuel an expected filibuster of the legislation when it comes up for debate in the Senate, according to MoveOn.org.
MoveOn began circulating its petition Tuesday to help Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) block PROTECT IP, the Senate companion to the The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). A longtime advocate of Internet freedom, Wyden has vowed to “fight this every step of the way.”
Although the legislation aims to fight illegal use of copyrighted material, it could have far-reaching and unintended consequences, according to Wyden and other opponents.
“While some would like to paint this issue as a simple matter of being for or against intellectual property, that would be a mistake,” says Wyden in recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. “Believing that a free and open Internet is worth fighting to protect does not mean that we aren’t concerned about copyright infringement or that we are somehow oblivious to the fact that unscrupulous foreign suppliers are using the net to traffic counterfeit and illegal goods. They are and Congress and this committee are right to be considering remedies to stop them and to protect the hard work of our creative industries.
“Rather, those of us who value the Internet’s growing role in our society recognize that any government intervention in the online ecosystem that is the Internet can and will have a ripple effect on more than just its bad actors,” Wyden adds.
For instance, pop star Katy Perry could decide that a fan-made video posted on YouTube lip-synching to her latest hit constitutes copyright infringement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has come out against SOPA.
“All Ms. Perry would have to do is notify YouTube’s ISP of the supposed copyright infringement, and YouTube’s entire site could effectively disappear from the Web, perhaps even before YouTube was notified and despite the fact all other content on the site was non-infringing,” the ACLU says. “Fear of an entire website being taken down for such a small piece of content could lead such user-generated websites to police their users’ content, thus impeding free speech.”
Wyden hopes his filibuster will effectively kill the legislation from moving forward. The senator “will read the names of every person that signs a petition against Internet censorship,” MoveOn.org says in its email which circulated the petition.
“It’s the perfect opportunity for 5 million Internet-connected progressives to visibly add their voice to a Senate debate. The more of us that sign, the stronger this effort to block this terrible law will be,” the email adds.
SOPA and its Senate counterpart fractures the conventional left-right divide.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), traditionally a progressive stalwart, is listed as a co-sponsor of SOPA along with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Further, unions have also come out in support of SOPA and its Senate counterpart.
Although Republicans like Smith are backing the bill, others like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky oppose the measure.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.