As with most news that's intended to avoid as much publicity as possible, many members of Congress announced on a Friday that they were considering the removal of key provisions from the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) after public outcry continued to swell. They selected the Friday prior to a blackout planned for January 18 on social news site Reddit and several other prominent websites to get the word out to those paying close attention while limiting the display of weakness the move represents to those who aren't as familiar with the battle.
If the hope was to quell the protests and make SOPA and PIPA easier pills to swallow, it doesn't seem to be working yet. Nobody on the list has withdrawn their intentions to go black and more are being encouraged to join the fight.
"These bills need to be killed altogether," said Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Our view all along has been they are not fixable."
Whether the DNS provision is truly removed or not (and Techdirt is quick to point out that it's not a done deal) doesn't matter. This should be nothing more than a further rallying call. It's not a victory. It's an attempted pacification of the outrage that is being directed at Congress, one that should be dealt with more harshly than if they kept it intact.
The biggest challenge for those who oppose SOPA/PIPA is the lack of public knowledge. Despite a perceived groundswell of opposition against them, the reality is that the majority of Americans still have no idea what SOPA is or what it means. The Internet and social media in particular are powerful but without the attention of mainstream media, particularly those in Hollywood and New York City who support the bill by default, this is still too small of an issue for most to take notice.
January 18th can be a day that exposes more Americans to the disaster that SOPA will become if passed. On that day, as many Americans as possible must visit a site that goes black and they must be prompted to ask why. The message must reach the true masses, not just those visiting Reddit, GOOD, Mozilla, and other prominent sites.
As great as it is that these sites have taken a leadership role and are willing to charge forward with the protest (losing revenue as a result), others must be encouraged. Without the unified declaration of solidarity against SOPA, we are still facing a major uphill battle. If anything, the change of the DNS provision represents a greater likelihood that it will pass.
It cannot. It must not.
If you're a website owner, here's an easy way to join the SOPA blackout.
If you want to help by encouraging other major websites to join the cause, ask them to do so here.
This is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation ever introduced in Washington. It will not only strip us of many of the freedoms (and websites) that we currently hold dear, but will also set a precedent that the U.S. Government controls the Internet. We've seen what has happened in the Middle East and Asia when governments meddle with the Internet. It cannot happen here.
It must not.