Hey Geeks - Way To Go! You Just Stopped SOPA & PIPA

stopsopaOn January 18th Internet websites shut down, including this one. The simultaneous black out was in protest of two bills before Congress, SOPA and PIPA. On January 20th, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shelved the Senate version of the bill, PIPA, for a floor vote and House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith just suspended SOPA in committee. SOPA and PIPA are D.O.A.

I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns,” said Lamar Smith, House judiciary chairman and the sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, as he announced the suspension of work on the bill.

Mr Smith’s retreat followed a similar move in the Senate, where majority leader Harry Reid postponed a scheduled vote on the related Protect Intellectual Property Act “in light of recent events.

Some were not happy, such as Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy:

PIPA/SOPA supporter Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), miffed by this sudden turn of events, offers his own statement. “I understand and respect Majority Leader Reid’s decision ... But the day will come when the Senators who forced this move will look back and realize they made a knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem.”

What probably won't be discussed much is how finally Geeks got their political voice. Yes, Geeks finally got their groove on and entered full-bore into the political fray. Technologists, Engineers, Scientists are often sidelined, rarely voicing an opinion on legislation and policy. For the first time ever, a large group spontaneously organized and did something.

Geeks managed to get SOPA/PIPA discussed online more than almost any other topic. That's power folks.

As the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) reached a breaking point this week, a new report found this topic was discussed more online than most other big events in 2011.

That’s according to research analysis firm General Sentiment with a new report on the SOPA/PIPA protest and its impact in the social media world.

According to the report, the SOPA/PIPA Protest ranked third in overall social media volume with 8.6 million mentions — higher than the 2011 Super Bowl, the Oscars, the Oprah Finale, and the American Idol finale and premiere.

Only the death of Osama Bin Laden (15.3 million mentions) and the Royal Wedding (14.3 million) attracted more social media attention.

The report goes onto say Wikipedia was the most influential and considering their daily traffic and use, that's probably true. But just like the Internet was originally called a web, it takes many voices, acting in concert, to put up a protest and have it actually succeed.

Intellectual Property Watch said the coordinated protest was the biggest online protest in history. The January 18th black out brought 10 million petition signatures, 3 million emails and 100,000 phone calls. Google's online petition alone received 7 million signatures.

Imagine what would happen if Geeks became more politically active. Did you know China's national economic strategy team is loaded with engineers? In the United States, can you name one member of Congress with an engineering or science background?

For example, what if geeks called the Attorney General to stop giving banks a free pass with slap on the wrist fines for mortgage fraud and abuses?

The latest bit of corrupt behavior is that the Obama administration has a full court press on to push the heinous “multi-state” settlement deal over the line. We’ve pooh poohed previous reports from Iowa state attorney general Tom Miller that a deal is just around the corner, since he’s been doing his variant on a Chicken Little act for a full year. But it appears the President wants a talking point, ideally for the State of the Union address or as shortly thereafter as possible.

What if geeks started piping up more? Can you imagine policy that was crafted on actual theory, statistics and facts?   My, my, we might just pull ourselves out of this economic hole.

The Hollywood lobbyist behind SOPA and PIPA is Chris Dodd. He just retired from the Senate and was the Senate Banking committee chair. That's where financial reform legislation was further whittled down to useless Swiss cheese. Can you imagine what would have happened if Geeks stepped up when financial reform legislation was being crafted? We would not be in the financial mess we are still in today.

thumbsupAnyway, congratulations are in order. Geeks, you just beat corporate lobbyists who spent an estimated $92 million trying to pass these bills.

Way to Go!



Are the bills really dead?

The bills are both effectively dead. When a Congressional committee chair suspends a bill in committee, that means it will not be brought up for a vote to pass out of committee. It's near impossible to get a vote on legislation directly to the House or Senate floor without it first being passed out of committee. Yes, that is how much power House and Senate committee chairs have.

The Senate SOPA bill death is less certain. But to pass a bill, it must pass both Houses of Congress, then the differences rectified after the fact, often through appointed Conferees, selected by the House and Senate leadership and finally, after all of that (you wonder how nothing gets done beyond corporate lobbyists' wish lists?) it must be signed into law by the President of the United States.

Here is what is on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's website.

Washington, D.C. - Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement today on the Senate's PROTECT I.P. Act:

"In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

"There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day's work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

"I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans' intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we've held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks."

The Majority leaders of the Senate and House set the floor schedule and determine which bills will be brought up for a vote on the floor. So, once again, you can see how much power Congressional leadership has.

Now, compromise in coming weeks does mean that SOPA could come back from the dead. That said, terms like optimistic imply it's probably dead.

One has to be aware, lobbyists stop at nothing to get whatever agenda they want through. I believe Comprehensive Immigration Reform has been brought up, introduced every session of Congress and sometimes makes it all the way to a floor vote. Every single time protests have caused the bills to fail by the final votes.

Yet, because corporate lobbyists want this, plus Democrats believe they can swing elections due to the Hispanic vote, every single Congressional session they bring back pretty much the same bills (originally written by lobbyists btw) and try to pass them.

Bottom line, D.O.A. in Congress doesn't mean Zombies don't exist. They sure do in D.C. and one must remain viligant.

Regardless this is a massive success and I think the shut down of Megaupload/Megavideo by existing law proves the issue is one of enforcement, not further erosion of free speech and trying to make Joe Blow hosting responsible for what Betty Sue commenter said on some site.

Not necessarily the end

Do we recall how the REAL ID Act got enacted? Everyone was happy that it got shot down, but "staffers" slid it into an unrelated conference bill and no one "noticed" that it was there until after it was signed into law.

exactly, manager's amendment and conferees

This is what I mean by Zombies. After all amendments have been voted on, there is something called the "managers" amendment, which is huge, either from a committee chair or the bill sponsor. It's always at the last minute, often by voice vote and no one has read it at all so they don't know what's in it. That's where a lot of lobbyist agendas get into bills.

Then, after a bill has passed both houses, they must "rectify the differences". The House and Senate leadership each appoint 3 Congressional members to met to "rectify the differences". That's also a place where things are slipped into bills, after they have passed, which have nothing to do with the bills or were even voted down earlier.

On "financial reform" that's where derivatives regulation was even further watered down.

Congress is about as democratic as a feudal lord and their serfs.