With the protest “blackouts” of many major websites like Wikipedia, BoingBoing, WordPress, and Mozilla yesterday — Google “blacked out” their logo, but remained open — two pieces of legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), were made instantly famous.
SOPA and PIPA, currently in the House and Senate, respectively, are anti-copyright infringement measures that have entertainment and technology companies divided. On the tech side, Wikipedia editors claim the bills’ use of censorship “could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” The MPAA (which, along with the RIAA and most major television networks, supports the bill) accuses the blacked-out sites of “intentionally skew[ing] the facts…to further their corporate interests.”
Of Maryland’s eight representatives and two senators only Sen. Ben Cardin has taken a position on the sister bills, and it’s something short of a full retreat. Cardin, a cosponsor of PIPA, stated in a recent press release that “there are real concerns still to be addressed,” and he would not vote in favor of PIPA “as currently written.” But he has not completely abandoned the piece of legislation and is instead on the lookout for “meaningful amendments” to it.
Congresspeople, on the whole, receive much more money from organizations that support these bills than those that don’t, and Maryland’s elected officials are no exception. On the other hand, popular opinion seems to be turning swiftly away from these bills. We’ll see which way the wind blows.