In this age of Occupy Wall Street direct action, it should be noted that the campaign that has had the most immediate impact on legislation has come from the clicktivism of the online sphere. The Protect IP Act was well on its way to passage, and it was poised to create a tool for censoring the Internet and bringing user-generated content sites to their knees. So a Web video was created and distributed. Content producers turned their sites over on Internet Censorship day, redacting their site names and urging calls to Congress. Major players like Google and Twitter and Mozilla come out against the proposal. Tens of thousands of letters and calls were generated, and over 60,000 signed a petition to have their names read on the floor of the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the lead politician opposing the bill. And this started to have an impact. Lobbyists floated that they could envision changes to the bill, which has been mainly pushed by the entertainment industry.
Now Wyden is out with his own counter-proposal:
Senator Ron Wyden, who has said that he would filibuster the antipiracy Protect I.P. Act because it threatens a free Internet, now has a counterproposal on the table: let the International Trade Commission go after those who sell pirated copyrighted material on the Web from abroad.
Mr. Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, on Thursday joined a bipartisan group of 10 legislators from both houses in proposing what they called a “draft framework for discussion” of an alternative to the Protect I.P. Act in the Senate and the similar Stop Online Piracy Act in the House.
Both bills would empower the federal authorities — when notified of online copyright infringement by sites based abroad — to force companies in the United States that provide services like payment collection or Web searches to sever any connection to those sites. Tech companies like Google, as well as advocates of an open Internet, have strongly criticized the legislation as a threat to free speech and free commerce.
Wyden joined Darrell Issa, of all people, in announcing the counter-offer. The “Copyright Alliance,” the umbrella trade group pushing the Internet censorship bill, didn’t like it, so it’s making the right enemies. There’s a bit more on the alternative here. Rather than turning federal judges into mediators of international copyright disputes, this proposal at least puts the question in the right venue.
This is a discussion draft, which will have input from the online community as well. So it could go through a lot of different versions. But that’s far more democratic than a bill written by entertainment giants to muscle out their competition. You can read the whole discussion draft here.
UPDATE: More from Zach Carter.