By Camella Mendez (updated 1/21 with quote from Senator Klobuchar)
Yesterday’s ‘SOPA blackout’ was cause enough to close the curtains on major websites like Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing for extended periods of time — up to 24 hours in some cases. Google, craigslist, Mozilla and many others leveraged their reach to inform the masses of congress’ radical plans to legislate, control and censor the global Internet in name of piracy.
But the heightened awareness – or lack thereof – failed to reach Minnesota’s own Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar who are co-sponsoring SOPA’s sister bill, PIPA. Though SOPA has been halted in the House (for now), PIPA is still alive and has the ability to inflict a crippling blow to Minnesota’s startup community if passed on January 24th.
Over 50 prominent tech investors have declared that “PIPA will ultimately put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy,” while innumerable entrepreneurs from around the world have spoken up in regards to what they see as a threat.
Following Wednesday’s protests, key senators who once supported PIPA have backtracked, including those from Missouri, Florida, Utah, Arkansas and Maryland. An increasing number from both the House and the Senate are now openly vocal against PIPA and SOPA. Much of this opposition is coming from states with a less vibrant entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem than Minnesota’s; in other words, they even have less to lose in the event that PIPA or SOPA become codified into law.
Amongst those political opponents is Minnesota’s own Rep. Keith Ellison who outwardly participated in yesterday’s blackout to show his solidarity in the fight to block SOPA and PIPA from advancing.
“The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act would devastate free speech, Internet innovation, and job creation,” said Rep. Ellison.
In a statement to TECHdotMN, Franken spokesperson Ed Shelleby said, “Sen. Franken has heard the concerns that many Minnesotans have voiced over the past few days about the PROTECT IP Act, and he believes we need to reach a compromise that will both keep the Internet free and open and protect American jobs.”
Yet Franken still remains a co-sponsor of the legislation in current form.
Klobuchar, on the other hand, has not returned numerous requests for information over the past few days, and remains supportive until otherwise indicated. Senator Klobuchar provided this quote after publishing:
“This morning Senator Reid called off the vote because we need a better balance in any legislation that we consider. I will continue to work to address concerns that have been raised going forward.”
Minnesota’s two politically engaged tech organizations — the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and MOJO Minnesota (a co-op created to “fuel entrepreneurship and innovation in MN”) have not commented specifically on Franken & Klobuchar’s cosponsoring of PIPA, but did generally note:
“MOJO is against this legislation. While we support intellectual property rights, SOPA/PIPA would impinge on basic functions of the internet and websites. That some people misuse content does not justify the harsh penalties these proposed laws would impose. There are adequate means under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to alert a website owner of infringing content. So we hope the proposed laws are not enacted,” said Ernest Grumbles on behalf of MOJO.
“Although I know a few of our members have articulated specific positions on SOPA and PIPA, it’s not something we have weighed in on as MHTA. Our involvement in federal affairs is usually coordinated through TechAmerica, the leading technology trade association. MHTA happens to be the local office for TechAmerica…here are some links to their recent comments on the legislation,” said Communications Director Andrew Wittenborg.
Senator Al Franken: MN office: (651) 221-1016; DC office: (202) 224-5641; email
Senator Amy Klobuchar: MN office: 1-888-224-9043; DC office: 202-224-3244; email
Guest author Camella Mendez is a content strategist at Internet Exposure, a Minneapolis digital agency that specializes in a web design and development.