Protests over controversial anti-piracy legislation escalated Wednesday, as opponents planned demonstrations in New York and San Francisco, lawmakers took sides, and websites including Wikipedia staged a blackout.
A New York City technology group called NY Tech Meetup, which hosts monthly meetings for startups, scheduled a protest for 12:30pm in front of the midtown offices of US Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Speakers will include social media intellectual Clay Shirkey and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow.
As of about noon, 1,500 people had indicated on NY Tech's website that they would be attending the protest.
Both Sen. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are sponsors of Protect Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA, a companion bill to the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. The legislation is designed to stop foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies, music and other products. Opponents see it as a threat to free speech on the internet. Neither senator immediately responded to a request for comment.
"The future of the NY tech community is in jeopardy," NY Tech's invitation said.
Protests are scheduled elsewhere throughout the country today including San Francisco and Seattle.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers publicly took sides. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said he would black out his website for one hour on Wednesday afternoon to show solidarity with online sites. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) went to the House floor to say, "Imagine how some of these user content sites are going to have to try and police things. They can always err on the side of censorship, because there's broad provisions in this bill to allow you in good faith to censor something."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday indicated that online piracy legislation isn't coming up for a vote soon.
"It's pretty clear to many of us that there's a lack of consensus at this point," Boehner said at a news conference. "I would hope the committee would continue to work to try and build consensus before this bill comes to the floor."
The House Judiciary Committee has been debating the legislation.
Websites including Wikipedia and Craigslist on Wednesday shut down their English-language services to protest internet piracy bills aimed at curbing the illegal downloading of online movies, music and television shows. The websites fear that they will wind up as targets for unknowingly linking to pirated content, and wind up facing court orders to shut down links to pirated content or private legal action for hosting allegedly illegal content.
Large media companies say the legislation is tailored to target foreign-based websites, which are currently outside the jurisdiction of US law enforcement officials. But media executives' efforts to rally support for the bill haven't been as visible as their opponents