MPAA’s blackout criticism a complete joke

By Luke Wilusz

Wikipedia, Reddit and hundreds of other websites participated in a massive Internet blackout Jan. 18 to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which would effectively allow the U.S. government to censor the Internet and take down websites without due process. The sites went offline for a day and were replaced with notices meant to inform visitors about the bills and raise awareness about the threat they pose to our First Amendment rights.

On Jan. 17, the day before the planned blackouts, Chris Dodd, a former senator and current chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, issued a statement in which he called the blackouts “an abuse of power” and an attempt by the sites to “incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”

After several days, I’m still not sure whether that statement should make me laugh or rage at my monitor. The sheer audacity required to make such a statement without the slightest hint of irony or sarcasm is almost beyond my comprehension.

These anti-piracy laws have been fueled by corporate lobby groups since their inception and put on a fast track to passage in an attempt to prevent further revenue losses for large media companies. The fact that these bills could spell the end of a free and open Internet doesn’t seem to matter to the most vocal advocates, all of whom seem to have some sort of connection to the film, recording or software industries. But that, apparently, is in no way an abuse of power for the sake of corporate interests, and we’ll never hear any criticism about it from the MPAA.

And yet, when a site like Wikipedia—which is run by a nonprofit organization, edited by a worldwide community of volunteers and funded primarily with user donations—raises awareness about the issue, that’s just crossing the line. It’s apparently OK to throw heaps of money at legislators when you want things to go your way, but keeping millions of regular citizens whose lives could be affected by these bills informed and motivating them to speak up is unacceptable.

Luckily, there’s been tremendous backlash against the bills from people without corporate interests, if the 4.5 million people who signed Google’s Jan. 18 anti-SOPA petition are any indication. Many legislators began to reconsider their opinions after the protests before ultimately putting a halt on the legislation. Both SOPA and PIPA have been put on hold until a more agreeable solution is found.

This victory has, at least temporarily, restored my faith in the idea that our whole legislative system isn’t one gigantic, corporately-controlled farce just yet.