Kentucky’s junior senator, Republican Rand Paul, threw down his gauntlet in the SOPA and PIPA battle today, promising to “…oppose, filibuster and do everything in my power to stop government censorship of the Internet." SOPA is short for the "Stop Online Piracy Act," pending in the House of Representatives, and PIPA is an acronym for the "Protect IP Act" ("IP" stands for "intellectual property"), pending in the Senate.
For the past several months, Sen. Paul has opposed and led the charge against both of these proposals, and today he issued the following statement:
"The Internet, as we know it, has had a profound impact on job creation, the global economy and prosperity. It has accelerated wealth creation and facilitated a more connected world. But the Internet's development is based on the free flow of information, innovation, and ideas, not central government control," Sen. Paul said.
"Both PIPA and SOPA give the federal government unprecedented and unconstitutional power to censor the Internet. These bills enable the government to shut down websites that it deems guilty of violating copyright laws. While we support copyright protections, we are also concerned about websites being shut down without their day in court, and making innocent third parties bear the costs of solving someone else's problems."
Sen. Paul concluded, "I will not sit idly by while PIPA and SOPA eliminate the constitutionally protected rights to due process and free speech. For these reasons, I have pledged to oppose, filibuster and do everything in my power to stop government censorship of the Internet."
Ostensibly, these bills were introduced to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but many observers believe they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. A small, very powerful set of intellectual property industry lobbyists, led by organizations like the Motion Picture Association of America are attempting to use complex legislation to protect their turf. Chris Dodd, a former Senator and now the CEO of the MPAA, had a deep hand in crafting PIPA. He evidently wants to do to the internet what he did to the home mortgage business.
Today, the web has fallen silent, blacked out its pages, become dark, and effectively gone on strike. From Wikipedia to Google, even Firefox users are affected, as are other major online communities. ZDNet calls today “Black Wednesday .” And our elected representatives are beginning to respond; following Sen. Paul’s lead.
Rising Republican star Marco Rubio, Florida’s freshman senator, was first Wednesday morning with his announcement that he would no longer back anti-piracy legislation he had co-sponsored. Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly followed suit and urged Congress to take more time to study the measure, which had been set for a test vote next week. And this afternoon, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and one of the Senate bill’s original co-sponsors, called it “simply not ready for prime time” and withdrew his support. Even the White House has started backing away  from its initial support for the censorship bills.
The revulsion over this naked federal power grab has even had an influence over Louisville’s Democratic congressman, Rep. John Yarmuth, who posted on his Facebook page  today: “Thanks for your calls and emails this morning. I am opposed to SOPA. In its current form, the bill goes too far.” Shortly thereafter, Yarmuth introduced the Muhammad Ali Legacy Act, which establishes a $5 million federal grant program to “promote global respect, understanding, and communication,” in honor of a mentally challenged womanizing, racist, draft-dodging ex-pugilist . And the beat goes on.
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WHAS-11’s Renee Murphy reports:
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