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Websites Go Dark Despite Delayed SOPA Vote

Art Brodsky, communications director for digital rights group Public Knowledge, referred to a November House hearing on SOPA as a “classic stacked hearing,” at which members of the technology community were conspicuously absent. Google was the only technology company opposing SOPA at the hearing. “These bills are basically put together by the movie industry,” he said. “Now they’re showing what happens when you don’t have an inclusive process.”

According to Brodsky, a common misconception about the SOPA/PIPA debate is that it is a fight between big technology companies and big media companies, a misconception he hopes this week’s protests will correct. “When people say this is just Google versus Hollywood ... that’s totally wrong,” he said.

In a statement Tuesday, PIPA’s sponsor,  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said PIPA would not have the effects that protesters are anticipating. “Much of what has been claimed about the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act is flatly wrong and seems intended more to stoke fear and concern than to shed light or foster workable solutions,” he said. “The PROTECT IP Act will not affect Wikipedia, will not affect Reddit, and will not affect any website that has any legitimate use.”

Leahy suggested that “if these companies would participate constructively, they could point to what in the actual legislation they contend threatens their websites, and then we could dispel their misunderstandings.”

After the White House came out in opposition to SOPA over the weekend, Motion Picture Association of America spokesman Michael O’Leary said the group remains committed to the two bills. “As had been made clear throughout the legislative consideration of SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act, neither of these bills implicate free expression but focus solely on illegal conduct, which is not free speech,” O’Leary said in a Jan. 14 statement.

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