On a normal Wednesday at this time of year, Wikipedia gets around 30 million page views. Yesterday, on a day when the site was blacked out to protest SOPA/PIPA, it got 162 million hits. Users saw a page which allowed them to contact their local congressman and senators by Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to express opposition to these bills. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said “More than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge,” and ”You said no. You shut down Congress’s switchboards. You melted their servers. From all around the world your messages dominated social media and the news. Millions of people have spoken in defense of a free and open Internet.” Before the protest, only five US senators had expressed opposition the the bill. Now, that number has grown to thirty-five. House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday it was “pretty clear to many of us that there is a lack of consensus at this point.” At least four Senate Republicans who had previously cosponsored the Senate bill — Orrin Hatch of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas and Charles Grassley of Iowa — issued statements Wednesday saying they were withdrawing their support.
Even though it would seem to be a victory, the potential for future versions of similar bills is very real. The copyright owners who are the major backers of this legislation have spent a lot of money lobbying lawmakers to pass the bills, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. The MPAA, National Music Publisher’s Association, pharmaceutical companies, as well as the electronics and auto industries are all backers of this effort to reduce piracy and counterfeit products. While the goal is not bad, the method they want to use to achieve it is. There are strong anti-copyright laws in the US, but it is the overseas internet sites which cause the most concern. However, punishing search engines and social sites with legal action because of a link, or a user who uploads copyrighted material goes too far. The major websites do already police their content and purge it of copyright-infringing material. To require them to block IP addresses will cause fundamental problems to how the internet works. Also, the threat of lawsuits would stifle many small, innovative companies from ever launching new websites. So while this battle may be won, be aware that the larger war is still to be fought.