14 million Americans, 115,000 websites protested PIPA, SOPA

The numbers are in for the online protest of lawmakers’ efforts to pass legislation in the House of Representatives and Senate to clamp down on online piracy, and they are impressive.

More than 14 million Americans and an estimated 115,000 websites took part in an online protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), according to a letter dated Feb. 6, 2012, to members of both houses from several advocacy groups, including Public Knowledge, Consumer Union and the American Library Association.

In the letter, the groups called for Congress “to take a breath, step back, and approach the issues from a fresh perspective.” Concern over the legislation expressed by a wide group of people ranging from law professors and venture capitalists to human rights groups and individual Internet users “are too fundamental and too numerous to be fully addressed through hasty revisions of these bills,” the letter said.

The groups urged Congress to forsake closed-door negotiations and open to the public the legislative process. The letter also urged Congress not to rely upon industry estimates of the economic and job implications of copyright infringement and turn to “accurate and unbiased sources ,” the letter said.

Any future debate regarding intellectual property law regarding the Internet “must avoid taking a narrow, single-industry perspective.” The letter chided Congress for focusing “exclusively on areas where some rights holders believe existing law is too weak” without considering how existing policies “have undermined free speech and innovation.”

The groups even provided examples, such as “the year-long government seizure of a lawful music blog (dajaz1.com) and the shutdown by private litigation of a lawful startup video platform (veoh.com).”

According to the letter, the value of the Internet to the public makes it necessary for debate to be “open, transparent, and sufficiently deliberative” to all interested parties to avoid a repeat of “the mistakes of SOPA and PIPA.”