SOPA and PROTECT IP (PIPA) keep coming; Americans keep fighting back

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The fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) isn't over. It returns to the Senate table late this month--as does PROTECT IP.

Declan McCullagh speculates in CNET that Google, Amazon, and Facebook could be considering fighting a little harder with what he calls "the political equivalent of a nuclear option" by turning off their sites with a warning that asks users to contact politicians about the vote. He quotes Markham Erickson, head of the NetCoalition trade association, as saying, "There has been some serious discussions about that." It would certainly bring more visibility to something that non-technical Americans have largely ignored, partially thanks to a vast lack of coverage in traditional mass media.

SOPA is the proposal that The Atlantic calls "a symbol of the movie industry's failure to innovate." It will return along with the Judiciary Committee's return to Washington on January 24. But a similar proposal is coming back to life at the same time: the PROTECT IP Act (also known by the acronym-of-an-acronym PIPA), is due for a vote, likely following 30 hours of cloture that Senator Ron Wyden and others have promised to filibuster through on January 23-24. It would need only 19 more Senators to override that filibuster on top of its existing 41 co-sponsors.

PROTECT IP was introduced in the Senate last May before SOPA was introduced in the House in October. The December amendment to SOPA makes them quite similar. The more than one million Americans who have expressed opposition to the two bills have had their pleas fall largely on deaf ears. There are still more than 400 organizations supporting the bills, from some surprising corners beyond the expected like the MPAA and record companies, including cosmetics companies (L'Oreal, Revlon, and Estee Lauder), the National Football League, Tiffany & Co., and the US Olympic Committee.

What can you do? If you're a Chrome user, there are a few extensions you can install to explore the ramifications of SOPA reality:

  • No SOPA notifies you when you visit the site of a company that supports SOPA. A red bar will appear at the top of the page alerting you. The extension is licensed under GPLv3, and contributions are welcome at
  • Protest SOPA is a similar extension that notifies you if the domain you're visiting belongs to a SOPA-supporting company.
  • SOPA Lens intends to "crowdsource 'flagging' of potentially infringing websites and lets users know how at-risk their favorite sites are."

Even if you're not using Chrome, you can use SOPA Track, which will help you find your Congresspeople, contact them, and track their votes on the two bills.

You can also read our earlier posts about the potential effects of SOPA:

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Ruth Suehle is the community leadership manager for Red Hat's Open Source and Standards team. She's co-author of Raspberry Pi Hacks (O'Reilly, December 2013) and a senior editor at GeekMom, a site for those who find their joy in both geekery and parenting.

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