Lawmakers flip on piracy bills protested on Web

Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:33pm EST
 
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By Sarah McBride and Diane Bartz

(Reuters) - Some members of the Congress switched sides to oppose antipiracy legislation as protests blanketed the Internet on Wednesday, turning Wikipedia dark and putting black slashes on Google and other sites as if they had been censored.

Content providers who favor the anti-piracy measures, such as Hollywood and the music industry, were scrambling to win back public opinion and official support.

Wikipedia, the world's free online encyclopedia, shut down for a day. Google and others used the black censorship bars to draw attention to what had until recently been an obscure and technical legislative proposal to curb access to overseas websites that traffic in stolen content or counterfeit goods.

Many of the sites participating in the blackout urged their users to contact their legislators on the issue, a plea that brought quick results.

Several sponsors of the legislation, including Senators Roy Blunt, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and John Boozman and Marco Rubio, said they were withdrawing their support. Some blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for rushing the Senate version of the bill.

Meanwhile, friends of the bills stepped up their efforts.

Creative America, a studio- and union-supported group that fights piracy, launched a television advertising campaign that it said would air in the districts of key legislators. In Times Square, it turned on a digital pro-SOPA and PIPA billboard for the day - in space provided by News Corp, which owns Fox Studios.

The group also said it is sending a team of 20 organizers to big events around the country, including the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, to try to get voters to see the situation their way.   Continued...