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Last month’s flurry of Stop-PIPA & Stop-SOPA online protests were an apex of activity for OpenCongress. Not only was January 18th, 2012 the single-highest day of traffic on OC since our launch in February 2007, but also the stop-PIPA action was in many ways the height of user engagement with active legislation in the U.S. Congress. The huge “Internet blackout” event on January 18th was OC’s single largest day of traffic, with over 250,000 visits and more than half a million pageviews (and likely would have been much higher if we could afford more servers and cloud-scaling ability to handle the traffic rush).

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SOPA/PIPA Dead ...For Now.

January 20, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

Following a day of unprecedented online protest, the web censorship bills in Congress, SOPA and PIPA, have officially been tabled. “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act (PIPA)," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning.

SOPA in the House was put on hold as well. "It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products," said Judiciary Committee Chairman and SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith. The SOPA mark-up was scheduled to resume on Feb. 18th, but it has now officially been postponed indefinitely.

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Help Us Whip #PIPA

January 13, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

Ahead of the January 24th vote on the PROTECT-IP Act (a.k.a. PIPA) we're organizing a distributed public whip-count campaign to find out where each member of the Senate stands on the bill. This bill would establish the first ever internet censorship system in the United States, and our right to free speech depends on it being killed. It's being rushed to a vote on the first day back from January recess even though the only debate it's had so far was at an 8-minute mark-up session in the Judiciary Committee where no objections were heard. 

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As grassroots opposition to the internet censorship bills known as SOPA and PIPA continues to build, the entertainment industry and their allies in Congress are scrambling to move them forward as quickly as possible. Here's an update on where things stand at the moment and what to expect when Congress comes back from the holiday recess.

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SOPA Goes Through Staged Compromise, Still Censorship

December 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The notorious internet censorship bill known as SOPA is going to mark-up in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and ahead of the meeting the committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX], has pulled a neat little trick. Smith has come out with a manager's amendment that eliminates the most insanely unconstitutional elements of the bill, leaving behind an expansive censorship system for the government and the entertainment industry that is meant to seem reasonable by contrast.

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Who Writes the Bills Anyways?

December 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Ahead of the December 15 Judiciary Committee markup, the corporate sponsors of the SOPA web censorship bill are making some last minute tweaks to the legislative language:

The Motion Picture Association of America is willing to change some of the language to tone-down the controversial, much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act that it supports, according to a report in the New York Times late Wednesday.

MPAA exec Michael O'Leary said in an afternoon press call that the agency “will come forward with language that will address some of the legitimate concerns,” of those opposed to the bill, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga and myriad other Web companies and advocacy groups.

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The bill to give corporations and the government new powers to block websites without having to seek court approval is expected to be voted on in the Senate in the next few days or weeks. The PROTECT-IP Act, which is companion legislation to the House's SOPA, has already been voted out favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee and can be called to the floor for a vote any day.

According to folks in D.C., Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is planning to promote it on the floor by giving it the bogus label of "jobs bill." We've already seen this strategy used succesfully by congressional leaders this year to pass big-business handouts (e.g. patent reform legislation and free trade deals) despite the fact that independent analysis shows that they will stifle small-business innovation and kill more jobs than they create. Let's stop them from doing it again with internet censorship. 

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Why SOPA and PROTECT-IP Are So Hard to Kill

November 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last week an unprecedented coalition of tech companies, internet users, and public-interest groups came together to fight legislation that would give corporations and the government new powers to censor the internet. The numbers are impressive -- in just one day more than 1 million emails were sent to Congress and 88,000 phone calls were placed to representatives. But despite this viral, grassroots effort, the special interests behind the legislation are still winning. They have spent years working behind the scenes on Capitol Hill to assemble an extensive, bipartisan network of powerful lawmakers, and they are perfectly positioned to see the bill passed and signed into law this session.

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On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that would create the first ever mass internet censorship system in the U.S., all in the name of protecting Hollywood from filesharing. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, as well as the backing of the powerful music and movie industries, so it's expected to pass if it gets a vote. There was some hope, however, that Wednesday's hearing would be an opportunity for Congress to hear from some of the industries and interests that don't think the bill is such a hot idea. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to be the case.

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Should Congress Be Afraid of Online Piracy?

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

One of the only things Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem to agree on these days is passing legislation aimed at stopping copyright infringement on the internet. For years, members of Congress from across the political spectrum with financial backing from copyright industries have been pushing for new powers for the government and copyright owners to restrict channels for sharing content online. Just last week a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act, that would criminalize a lot of really standard YouTube behavior and allow copyright holders to block access to websites without a court order. By all accounts, the bill is going to be fast-tracked through Congress in the coming weeks. But is copyright infringement on the internet even a real problem?

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Congressional Leaders Intro Massive E-PARASITE Act

October 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Powerful House Republicans and Democrats have taken two of the most unpopular bills in the Senate, combined them into one big bill, and amended them to make them even worse. Oh, and they gave the whole thing a new name -- the E-PARASITE Act.

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About the only things getting real bipartisan love in Congress these days are Hollywood-backed bills to make the government a more powerful force in online copyright enforcement. I wrote about one already that would make streaming of copyrighted content a felony with jail time as a possible penalty. The other is S.968, the PROTECT IP Act,that would empower the Department of Justice to demand search engines and domain registries to block websites they determine are "dedicated to infringing."

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With Congress gridlocked on everything the public actually cares about -- e.g. the unemployment rate and the federal debt -- they seem to have found at least one thing they can all agree on. Big media companies and the Obama Administration have been asking Congress to change the copyright laws so that people who stream copyrighted content on the internet, whether intentionally or not, can be put in jail or charged massive fines. The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the idea on June 1st and the Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee is moving forward with a mark-up of legislation to do so tomorrow. Don't you just love bipartisanship?

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Website Takedown Bill to be Reintroduced

May 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

COICA, the Democrats' bill from last year to let the government shutdown websites they deem to be involved in copyright infringement, has been rewritten and made even broader. Ars Technica reports that the bill will be introduced soon, under a new name, the "PROTECT IP Act," and with some new provisions that would require search engines to get involved in the domain blocking game as well.

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Senate Takes Up Controversial Patent Legislation

February 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate has begun debating a bill that would fundamentally alter an important area of U.S. intellectual property laws, and it's pitting small businesses and independent inventors against a broad coalition of powerful interests like drug companies, big software companies and some unions. The bill, known as the Patent Reform Act of 2011, would amend several areas of patent law, the most significant of which would be a change from the current application system that awards patents to the fist person to invent something to a new system that would award a patent to the first person to file an application.

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