The “SOPA Spring” is in full bloom in Austin, where the South by Southwest conference opens to day. With the tech world still flush with success after defeating SOPA on Capitol Hill, several startups at this year’s confab hope to capitalize on the new found political engagement to grab a role in this year’s political campaigns. Back on Capitol Hill, however, the SOPA Winter still has Congress in its icy grip. Congress has become so shy of a SOPA-like backlash that progress on any tech-related legislation has become almost impossible. Even Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the heroes of the anti-SOPA fight, is having trouble getting traction for his SOPA-alternative bill as members sour on the whole topic.
Today is SOPA Blackout Day. Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist, WordPress and other leading web sites have gone dark today in a coordinated show of opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT-IP Act. Google goes semi-dark, partially blacking out its logo on the home page but leaving the search service accessible. The protests themselves have now triggered a backlash, however. MPAA CEO Chris Dodd denounced the blackouts as a “dangerous gimmick,” while PROTECT-IP sponsor Patrick Leahy accuses the protesting web sites of “hiding behind the black box of self-censorship.” Even some opponents of the bills take issue with blackouts, such as Fordham University media professor Paul Levinson,” who argues that blocking access to information on sites like Wikipedia is a poor way to make a point about the dangers of blocking access to information on the Internet.