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Web Freedom Groups Spar With Hollywood in SOPA Fight Online

  |  November 16, 2011   |  Comments

Open Internet advocates warn against censorship as Hollywood backs an online piracy bill.

Digital media and tech firms like Mozilla and Tumblr are taking an anti-censorship message to their sites today in opposition to the Stop the Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act. But the film and entertainment industry has its own campaign going, and both sides are hoping to influence public sentiment as the House Judiciary Committee meets for a hearing on SOPA today.

American Censorship, a coalition of Internet freedom groups including Fight for the Future, Creative Commons, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is promoting today as "American Censorship Day," and spreading its anti-SOPA message through a mock Internet censorship barrier blocking site content across the web.

The group is allowing people to embed code on their own sites to enable the image, which reads, "Website Blocked. This site has been blocked to Americans by the US Government Firewall."

The American Censorship effort - mainly reliant on viral dissemination - launched today. Around 40,000 people have sent emails opposing the House and Senate bills, which together they refer to as the "Internet Blacklist Bills," according to David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, one of the groups behind American Censorship.

The number of sites interrupting access to their homepages with the jarring splash image is "well into the hundreds," said Segal, who spoke with ClickZ News this afternoon. "The peak of activism is today, but we will keep fighting," he said, noting that people who publish the splash image on their sites can keep it up for as long as they'd like.

Companies like blog publisher Tumblr are supporting the campaign with their own efforts. People can access a form to call or email their local congressional representatives at Tumblr.com/Protect-The-Net. "Congress is holding hearings today and will soon pass a bill empowering corporations to censor the Internet unless you tell them no," notes the site. Firefox maker Mozilla is asking people to email local representatives via a form housed on the EFF site.

Yesterday, tech firms including AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, and Twitter sent a letter to Senate and House Judiciary Committee leaders stating their opposition to the bills, which are considered overreaching by detractors.

"Don't Let Hollywood Ruin the Net," says an ad running in Google search results from open Internet group Public Knowledge.

Hollywood heavyweights are in the fight, though. Warner Bros., Fox, the Screen Actors Guild, and others formed Creative America earlier this year in support of the legislation. Google ads from the group seen today declare, "Put an end to content theft."

The organization claimed on Twitter recently that "Creative America supporters have sent over 100,000 letters to #Congress for stronger content theft laws." The group's site says 4,585 letters supporting SOPA have been sent through an online form.

Creative America also released a video last month featuring comedian Tom Papa which suggests to people passing his makeshift pirated video stand that obtaining movies for free damages the livelihoods of everyday people working in the entertainment industry. According to the Los Angeles Times, NBC is also running the video as a television PSA.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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