Cheezburger founder organizing anti-SOPA blackout



Posted on January 13, 2012 at 8:23 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 13 at 8:41 PM

He's the guy who set the gold standard for stupid videos on the Internet, but Seattle's Ben Huh of "I Can Has Cheezburger" fame is dead serious about SOPA.

"We are not happy with the way it's written. This bill has to be killed in its entire form," Huh says.

SOPA is the "Stop Online Piracy Act." The embattled bill is intended to sink pirates who post movies, music, TV shows and other online content illegally on the Internet. If enacted, SOPA would empower the U.S. Attorney General to shut down entire web sites suspected of allowing the content, but Huh says it goes much farther.

"If you post an image on Facebook, that could be considered a violation of copyright that could be cause for someone to take down Facebook. Not just your page. All of Facebook," says Huh.

What's more, web sites themselves would be held responsible for the copyrighted content, putting some in precarious positions regarding people's privacy.

"Companies like Gmail and Hotmail will have to monitor your email to make sure you're not sending infringing material," he says.

Movie, news and music executives across the country are pushing for the legislation. KING-TV General Manager Ray Heacox supports SOPA, in principle, but adds: "None of us are encouraging that kind of outcome," referring to email snoops and Facebook shutdowns.

Heacox says when content like that on is stolen, KING loses money. That means there are fewer reporters to gather news and the entire public suffers. The same, he says, is true for music and movies. Pirates make us all pay one way or another.

"As the piracy chips away at the ability to make revenue, you're simply not going to be able to have the action movie with 1,000 car crashes because nobody can pay for it. It's going to take the quality down on that kind of material," says Heacox.

But a growing list of Internet heavyweights are coming out against the legislation, including Google, Twitter, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo and LinkedIn.

That pressure appears to be working. On Friday SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith of Texas pulled a key provision of his bill that would've required Internet service providers to block access to overseas web sites accused of piracy. It's a victory for SOPA opponents, but the consensus among them is that the move doesn't go far enough.

Huh is now organizing an on-line blackout scheduled for next Wednesday. His group of web sites, along with the news site Reddit and several others are planning to take their content down for at least part of the day. Wikipedia is considering the action, as well.

"That will give them a little taste of what it will be like if SOPA passes," says Huh.