Ep. 106: SOPA blacks out the WebToday, several high-profile sites "blacked out" in protest of the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills. What effect are these actions having on the Web, and the legislation? We discuss with Declan McCullagh of CNET and Trevor Timm of the EFF.
-- -- -- Welcome -- a very special edition of reporters' roundtable Landow welcome back to San Francisco this is our first show in. 2012 back -- -- studio we were at CES last week of course. I was planning on starting roundtable this year on Friday in our normal slot but there's so much happening today that we had to do show today. And so by the stop online privacy act and pipa with pipa -- -- Protect IP act. Yet anyway these -- both to really important pieces of legislation that are -- heading to go votes very shortly. And out in protest of these -- these bills which I'm sure you've heard of several rather major sites have gone dark. They've black themselves out to say we protesting is that these these bills and we will be -- back on line tomorrow until then. We're doing this to show you how important is that this to us. Now to talk about what these protests mean what -- they are having. What this means for the future of the entry in the future of this legislation. We have two great guests both joining us by Skype first of all our chief political correspondent for CNET news is that -- that -- thank you so much for joining us. And also joining us from the electronic frontier foundation is activist Trevor him. Trevor. How many jobs can you have where you get paid to be an activist. I mean I might have one the only ones but you're looking in must be fun and interest -- Well actually now so it's a very exciting day today is January the -- -- it. The 18 January 18 the days. Wikipedia -- -- Italy today Craig's list went dark and a global censored its own logo. Generally in -- The -- -- first. What why or are these sites doing this what is behind these protests. Is I don't know what could be a historic moment in history -- policies and -- American politics. This is pretty remarkable. A recent not a site is going to our games and you're seeing all of our -- offline periods you don't do your homework a day early. Is -- process this -- online piracy actor and the protect IP act which. That collectively known with a -- candidate Jack Black lists and this is a -- -- -- -- and the Department of Justice c'mon what not to get. I'm poorest men and US -- -- writers come SE CU let me uses home. This litigation the science any more easily beef. Primarily offshore sites that are -- as an encouraging piracy -- solution receipt from that but. A -- -- was later at eye level view under protest is president and for a few weeks and that'll -- it actually happens I'm. -- impact already -- -- -- -- -- today we're sponsored the project but he's an all. -- -- -- -- -- It's fascinating stuff it Trevor from the FF what does the first -- -- involved in no organizing or being apart and it in anyway of this. Joint to protest. -- we've been working behind the scenes on this for a couple weeks ever since week. Found out that it might happen and -- -- of course started it a few weeks ago and then Wikipedia followed. Which is great to the six largest US site. -- get 25 million hits a day. On. And you seen it already. With team. Congressmen and senators coming out against this bill today I think the last count was 29. Congressman had said they would oppose the bills that it was they were either for the -- before -- -- -- decision and down. I think that -- couple hours old and has been in Britain but a few more -- for -- -- -- from Maryland on since we've been on the air. Jobs so -- there -- like dominoes so what's blacked out today and and and -- is an. We talked about are about. Wikipedia and Craig's -- being two very big ones pop girls read it huge site social site is down. Any other big sites that are and they're not down excuse me. There blacked and infected and Wikipedia it's very interesting because you'll -- you'll see a flash that page and then you get this pop up page in front saying you know world for the day. Any other big sites that are blocked today. Are well wired is protesting -- buzz -- Is protesting all and yet that -- is shown solidarity by darkening are a website on all I think there's about 7000 sites. Bitter currently doing this on. There isn't easy widget you can get for your word press up personal block -- are blacked out very easily. And it's. It's great because. You know a lot of that the tech world has had known about these bills in the dangers for a few months. What is the ordinary Americans that were there were really trying to target with this. Because -- I. You might have read that not many of the network news -- have been basically ignoring these bills even though it's in the top of the tech industry for a couple months. On and finally people you know if -- 15 million people go to Wikipedia de. You bet there's gonna be millions literally learn about this for the first time we're seeing is that the so called network TV blackout kind of strayed away tonight -- actually. Our own Julie Samuels is gonna be on ABC world news tonight so on and then obviously we saw this morning on the front page New York Times question posts LA times USA today. On was all about the protests so on it's really captured the imagination public. The -- and any surprises says the event defects of these but -- any surprises these are have to. Well let's see how it would lose -- pretty easy for fool dot com and NS. Dot com -- little dot com and so on to Iraq and say. Here's how to contact your member of congress we use geo location that -- US -- the Palo -- sentences summer. And also -- that are relevant to you. I am and then you can you can really overwhelmed this -- -- -- -- -- have -- this -- -- a really historic -- When it comes to really pressuring congress previous -- members of congress instead. -- they -- -- milk toast approach -- it was schools. Let's have a petition on this idea of your -- -- here petition your calls your office. And I and analysts have linked to a trade association -- just outlaw those marks up error. I don't think we're much more Wikipedia and -- -- embedded day they didn't. -- nuclear option -- last month instead it was. I just media heavy artillery auction items and and so. When I talk to members of congress look at those forests -- running. I'm David -- and all but some said I want you don't have worse I was abortion or gun rights -- value pack. -- more calls. And we've. And then I heard numbers between 300. And that 4000 calls today are two members of congress were senators that -- -- -- are not so there was enough of an effect. So that the withdrawal support by key members of congress is a direct response to. These blackouts there is -- not. It is not -- little perspective -- 41. Sponsors of -- -- -- feel going into that I today and now we have 41 minus four so. In other -- Is half that 10% impact at 9% of responses there's also -- I don't like it and it might be saying we like with reservations and know what's going on but it's not like it's and a half. Drop -- something like that so it is since these. These congressmen and women are are now. Expressing reservations about this bill will of that -- the vote for this or for this legislation to be delayed in any way or is -- going to be re drafted and go to a vote on schedule. Don't know yet that's very fluid situation. -- senator Harry Reid said -- Meet the Press earlier this week and I don't know we're going -- with the floral designs corporate and refining for the day after. The senate returns from its holiday recess. And in terms of that house so I know I know its author. Represented remarks that the senate yesterday -- our going to -- the committee the last scheduled next month I'm -- -- is. A reporter -- moved to the house -- since we can't Republican leadership is -- Sad about that -- that I happen I think it might -- that uses this too early to say. At Trevor from the FF IA you guys are tracking all these sites that are. Protesting the PI PA and so but. One is this who are these protests going to end or is this going to pick up steam and are we going to see tomorrow being. What's tomorrow going to look like on the web when the 24 hour blackouts are supposed and on the big sites. -- -- Well I mean these are gonna -- continuous protests obviously -- sites won't be. Blacking out like they are today on but we plan on continuing its fight. Because I as to set the Senate's voting next week -- wanna push back a little bit of what -- saint. -- You know it's been less than 24 hours in protest started an argument and we've seen huge numbers are Google had to petition. Honest -- said and it's gotten over four million signatures today witches. From just and astronomical number for on being up for what 1216 hours now hot. Yes that's alone has cents -- 750000. Unique emails. Congress today -- -- -- that's not including that -- other organizations who are mobilizing people. On you know having 29 or thirty congressman's switched their position in one day come back -- kind of a big deal. And -- costs. So I'd drop but you know four senators -- -- isn't that a 41. People who never who literally like -- personal -- but actual sponsors listed on Google web page. You -- one of the things I carry out the one of the things I'm very curious about is. It directly to to go back to that -- you're talking about sponsors of this bill who -- in light of this. Internet protests which is not even as big as it could have been have changed their positions. I'm kind of egg on their face or maybe not reading the bill they sponsored ahead of time or what's going on with these with these focus I think. So I'm mom my -- our colleague Elinor mills had contacted ultimate. Sponsors of and -- open house I contacted all responses per. -- IPN client and I think a reasonably good feel for where -- Stan. And I know how many are affected by it think it. I think it this way and get up if you're a member of congress to support all MPAA RA backed bills and say hey this isn't the MCA. I see is an electronic theft act through non non non profit -- infringing federal felony. I did it golly wanted. Neither -- been -- with -- with one exception may be -- senator senator Collins olympians and copy protection technologies still. I own racks -- the fact that noose tightening remember we're -- because they're getting what they want our congress and so. If you were if you want cozy up to the Oviedo where we think that you don't immediately EU our -- -- property -- to build intellectual property rights. You didn't know this is as low cost -- Euro in signing onto this legislation. I and you may not really paying close attention to it but now I there's trustee and this is this is really treat the Internet internationally and -- Now I want to talk about the loyal opposition to these protests. There are several sites that -- in addition we -- word press eyes -- is another one. Who are very locally opposing these bills but there are some sites and some people who are. Taking either moderate positions or are supporting -- throwing their weight behind his built -- sector writing these protests. In particular some media organizations. Trevor or death when do you want to talk about the opposition to these protests. I'm sure I had -- if you read. -- -- -- -- -- Well like -- -- a -- on you know all the content companies which -- that the major television networks -- it against these bills. -- time. On its kind of turned into a you know Internet community tech sector vs Hollywood. -- and the MPA has come out and said today and it's you know these protests haven't really works because they can get the big sites. -- but you know. I think that's a little disingenuous they're trying to just put a spin on -- given that Google has a petition on their front pages they've never done before you know Wikipedia. -- 125 million users. -- so I you know they're trying to spin this in it in a sense to make it seem like. You know this is just a publicity stunt and on but it's really getting people who have never heard about these -- before to acts and that's all we can ask for. You know I think the problem is that when people are copyright -- a certain segment of the population kind of tunes out. Around because there's always copy rentals uncomfortably since about 1995 there's been. 32 bills on that has been up passed through congress that it strengthen copyright protections aren't. And so you know they didn't realize how this -- ordinary Internet users is. As just. Law abiding citizens who don't infringe on copyright arms so hopefully that's what we're getting we're getting the people who normally wouldn't pay attention to the political process kind of Jordanians. Making their voice -- A -- we can you discuss. Other Wall Street Journal and also Rupert Murdoch's opposition to these protests as stunts. -- -- -- -- A lot of respect for us that up on -- writing an argument -- -- secure -- you really that are not only deliver half the time. And dearest and reasonably well whom I'm well argued and editorials today. I don't think you're just carrying water for the content industry I think that -- -- calling the track that some conservatives doing that is. We already -- it's obvious is that this is the fundamentals look conservative government returning position and so therefore its local businesses and defend what the same -- -- bigger. But there are differences in hospitals in -- I see I -- as well what are other -- some other conservative groups including Americans for Tax Reform it's the norm for America. -- and Lamar Smith who represented conservative district in taxes till I entries on a 0% rating from. I'm an error an abortion rights group I mean this is a conservative federal at least -- legislation. -- so. Hello and pointed out -- -- Rupert Murdoch and now -- business clearing out any desire kind of silly it is nudity nudity Twitter was taking some potshots -- who -- and the other. Accompanies that content like this legislation. Now it its niche thing there are also voices in the middle which I find very interesting for example Twitter and a consolidated the CEO Twitter says. Closing a global business in reaction to a single issue national politics is foolish and that was on. -- -- an inquisitor I think. -- found that an inch thing quotation. You know there. I think that that echoes some of the derision against the protests -- some people have been saying that shutting down Wikipedia or shutting down are potentially Twitter or something like that. Is. I don't call -- -- security issue but it's taking down services that people rely on. For what other people see as grandstanding. And let's talk about that the moderate -- they -- -- saying. This is not the right way to protest this issue. Yeah I I I think he's felt even said that he's kind of taken out of context there yeah I think he was talking about just Twitter not Wikipedia and these other sites in general Albany -- I can understand station. Because you know Twitter is fundamentally different service -- Wikipedia Wikipedia go for information -- Twitter is kind of communications device. And I don't even know -- shutting -- what are would have been as effective as you know. Millions of people tweeting about it today and amplifying the message. On Wikipedia is different because people go there for other information and -- you know they wouldn't normally hear about -- up on Wikipedia they specifically went there -- that information honestly think you know. Twitter has done a lot out there General Counsel. Has been reading blog post about the subject and not strong against that they signed the letter with the other companies on site S I wouldn't actually -- them that. I am but excellent about what to sing about up this being conservative issue that is really good point -- Out of the 29 not congress people who have switched or opposed the bill today. 26 have actually been Republican and a lot of them are hot Tea Party leaders like. For -- -- -- from South Carolina. Even -- the long time Judiciary Committee member Orrin hatch. -- when you talk came out against this bill today on indeed been a co sponsor before and down it's actually. Strangely becoming more conservative issue then. Or Republican issue than a Democrat issue but you had red state cut influential Tea Party blog saying that they were basically going to. Primary any Republican. Who all was going to support so but even if that meant taking down some normally light on and so I think that kind of caused a rift within Republican Party and it seems like. They are coming out and mass against -- today at least for the that members that are. I'm usually associated with the Tea Party. -- and he thinks these -- have any chance now that as their most loyal supporters are turning against them. Quite a little longer guarantees that members of congress soon representing Hollywood and then turn use this but I know at this point in that is. And this is that -- Am and off all the senators who love all effective that was a 41 today were Republicans this is becoming a partisan issue originally copyright business. I'm but if you look and cameras now not excited I dissident and Google+. Now -- About this it's more democratic sponsors in the senate and Republican sponsors. And that's -- adolescent wellness and one -- ratio and this is go to the democratic Nolan wrote I'll consider. I think there -- usually you find themselves loyal opposition not -- -- -- -- our colleagues that reminds me -- that. Al is that songs or protect IP innocent it -- -- prices as early supporters. I think Republicans I would actually had a lot of fun -- -- -- there aren't getting in and out the party Hollywood where would you rather eat where's the money where posts are passing. Yes it immediately close enough now as we go ahead Trevor. I was gonna say Al Franken it is it is one of the craziest cases out there. I'll when he was talking about net neutrality called it the greatest free speech issue over time and he wrote an op Ed. Talking about how we simply shouldn't give corporations any control of the Internet. And now -- here curious up as a cosponsor of that but and he hasn't made any moves toward on taking that back. And you know obviously these -- -- corporations bass more power to censor or web sites so it's just amazing that he couldn't say that. Less than a year ago and and still not come out -- -- Now I want to as a -- wrap up here and look at some of the extreme positions on on these bills and try to find the truth between them. On the one hand the MPAA. Sent data released today in the middle of all this hullabaloo. Saying the protect IP act narrowly defines infringing web site as one dedicated to infringement that has no significant -- other than engaging enabling our facilitating infringement. And no provision of protect IP will shut off access to any site that has any non infringing use -- that's what the NPA its supporters of the -- listening on the other hand. You have sites like pop -- which I mentioned earlier which is gone dark today this is they via a link site. -- very useful a great site I use it up that says in on its side notification at the site is offline. Of this legislation. Protect IP you would put a site like this in trouble if that linked to a web page anywhere on line that had any links to copyright infringement. Which of these is true and which of these is false. -- Well -- and here is extremely exaggerated on their -- this. This only affects foreign web sites and only sites that are you know wholesale copyright infringement you know that's just not true. I'm they have taken out the most egregious provisions and -- which would have given corporations. -- carte Blanche to take up take out any -- US even if there was just one video about a million that were copyright infringed but there are a lot of a lot of provision that still apply to owners sites. For example the immunity provision which gives IP's broad -- her arm over blocked users so let's see Bob. Justice Department is -- Signaling that they want that they get a court order and say blocked -- site if they block more than that site on their immune from from being sued over it. -- they're also they can also block sites voluntarily. Get immunity which means corporations can essentially make a back -- deal. With these eyes peas or if they own that like Comcast and NBC on two shuttle sites they don't like that might be on competition and then there's anti certain pension provision. On the which says not only can you -- -- these these sites will be censored by any anything to get around the bill. -- -- -- censorship mechanisms will be -- as well so that's where people are gonna have to start leasing their own sites from links and that's what Wikipedia is worried about you know a simple list of IP addresses. Of these -- domains. On May be considered under this anti circumventing provision and be enjoined by the attorney general so. Up to say that he's not affect American sites pretty generous. And what about the in the extreme position that pop -- -- which is -- site has said that the links to other useful sites. Says that any time we put a link up to an infringing site our whole site could be taken offline by predict IP or -- -- I mean that's probably an exaggeration that might have been true you couldn't read that in the bill in the original non. The original so above but after the manager's amendment they took out the parts that said on. A portion of the site columns can be taken down by corporation with five days notice or cut -- from payment processors. -- -- -- You know it's not. Just a week it's gonna ditch your whole site shut down I -- But it could get pages are sensor essentially not end there and let the anti circumvent -- the language is really unclear so it's on would. With the job prior restraint before the page that is on for the whole web -- we're not really sure so there's a lot of you know. Calls this bill another another part it is the definition of -- site you know a lot of American sites have their own domain names and other countries like who would not CA your Amazon has CO that UK. I'm sort of those fall under foreign sites and you know on the flip side -- based partly out port which is on -- US don't. So -- -- date domestic site on its -- confusing. And it's. It's very clear. Com on the other hand and that these will definitely expect US sites it would. -- -- when what do you think has -- going to happen next even following this for awhile you predicted back in December that there would be a blackout based on this. But what does -- tell us what you -- going to happen next with these bills. -- -- I was pretty pretty right now for wants it in Britain -- predicting that he was gonna -- -- black today I did a little. -- -- Wanna see how does not quite a prediction and sound more like our hope is that act and there's a whole house rules and well in advance. And that gives the engine companies -- time to really do it right. I absolutely signing -- petition that I really really hair -- you're really might be a little -- our artists. I'd say that your primary challenger thirty fund and I'm not really hurts and policy associate sponsor on the little mall in Washington DC able to see on this earth. I. AER. From Twitter himself by being the MC I wanna see senator Wyden -- -- -- you opening remarks and doubt. I have that musicians and taking it you'd students what are pros -- IB RC that it comes at a 100000 people there pretty easily you just cost a few million dollars 900 MB used. Lobbying budget -- -- about it the Google company that Vietnamese today. -- -- -- -- The the million page march. Coming to the mall. Near you and I Trevor any final words on that how are we going to see more protests like this over this or similar issues. In the future more big sites taking themselves offline forms of protest what do you think. Are electing -- sites this time for themselves offline because they thought that these pills actually threaten their existence. Arm but you know how I don't think that you know that's kind of -- your options -- said. -- I don't think that's gonna be kind of a common occurrence. -- is great to see that the Internet has been mobilized to spell you know before this there was never any great urgency to our petition congress for -- and and you know there are many bills coming up. In the next few years that are gonna affect the Internet like data retention. -- wiretapping and Ku Lia aren't so. You know this is really good for online activists in general and we're gonna see this continue for -- to Lucas Seneca is -- actually we have we got to remember. Up you know congressman -- and back in Washington yet so I'm a lot of their phone lines were closed today. -- so when Seneca returns next week again we're gonna ask people call and I think we're gonna see a slow steady stream of senators starting to. You know really really change their position and hopefully -- this -- it. Trevor thank you very much as Trevor -- of the electronic freedom -- frontier foundation is frontier freedom. Project electronic frontier foundation thank you very much like the time debt Glenn McCullough is a yeah our senior political correspondent -- CNET thank you -- and you can -- -- death when stuff on a new CNET news news.com. It is. Really really interest and I encourage you all to read it he's been covering this thing for months it's -- fascinating coverage. -- gentlemen thank you so much for the time thanks everyone for watching the special edition of reporters' roundtable I think we'll be back on Friday with a new show. Probably about -- Yahoo! and everything's going on over there so stay tuned and thanks him for producing we'll see guys all on Friday take care. --