This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
America saw political history made Wednesday. Think colonial Minutemen decimating formidable redcoats – but firing from the Web, not fences and trees.
The British army in this case was a powerful alliance of film makers, music labels, media companies and artists – creators and copyright-holders whose films, recordings, software and products have been getting plundered or counterfeited by Internet pirates.
They had the lobbyists; they had the money.
The colonials were such Internet upstarts as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia, and countless Web enterprises that depend on user uploads and links.
The creators desperately wanted Congress to approve the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, a measure that would have made it far easier for them – too easy – to threaten even websites unintentionally linked to thieves. Lawmakers looked all but certain to send the president a version of SOPA or its Senate cousin, the Protect Intellectual Property Act.
No bills so well-greased may have been smacked down so quickly. SOPA and PIPA were demolished by an online onslaught that culminated Wednesday when popular websites staged blackouts and Google steered its users to condemnations of the legislation.
Some of the bills’ most fervent supporters suddenly discovered reasons to back down: “Not ready for prime time,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch – one of PIPA’s original cosponsors.
The clash demonstrated the muscle and reach of the Web’s new giants – and their power to push around the old media giants of Hollywood, music and publishing. And now, Congress itself.
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