Internet Blackout: 7,000 Sites Join Wikipedia

There’s still some life in the Hollywood-backed proposals that would empower the government to block overseas websites that traffic in pirated content. But it seems to be ebbing fast: Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Misouri), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) dropped off the list of likely supporters of the Protect IP Act, which is due to come up for a vote in their chamber next week. They and other lawmakers backed away on a day when websites and individual protesters coordinated their attacks on the proposal, which they say could dangerously chill Web speech and commerce. Blunt, who co-sponsored the Protect IP Act, said on Facebook that it ”is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.” Rubio, another co-sponsor, also used the social networking site to say that he has “decided to withdraw my support” while urging Majority Leader Harry Reid to ”abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor” and “come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.” Meanwhile, Cornyn co-signed a letter to Reid saying that “the process at this point is moving too quickly,” making a planned vote next week ”premature.” Meanwhile in the House Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) withdrew as co-sponsors of a similar bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). That bill is due to be marked up by the House Judiciary Committee next month.

The lawmakers changed their views as hundreds of websites urged visitors to add their voices to the chorus of objectors. For example, Amazon is greeting shoppers with a link to find out “Reasons to oppose or modify SOPA.” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said on his site that the Web “is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet’s development.” Protesters also took to the streets in Seattle, San Francisco, and New York which included a rally outside the offices of Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.