A community that normally relies on a keyboard to communicate gathered in person Wednesday to express outrage over Internet anti-piracy bills moving through Congress.
Leading members of the San Francisco tech world spoke to more than 100 supporters outside City Hall to denounce the Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate counterpart, the Protect Intellectual Property Act.
The bills, known as SOPA and PIPA, have been pushed by entertainment companies, publishers and other industry groups as a way to curb online piracy.
The speakers outside of City Hall acknowledged piracy as a problem, but decried how the legislation could force tech companies to police users who use their platforms to share copyrighted material.
Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway said tech companies are leading the way in job creation nationally, and the bills would especially hurt startups that can’t afford to lobby lawmakers.
Brewster Kahle, founder of the San Francisco-based Internet Archive, used stronger language, describing the bill’s supporters as “copyright cartels” and comparing the policy push to censorship practices in China.
Although President Barack Obama has said he won’t support the current version of the legislation, Kahle warned against what might come of future versions.
The crowd booed at the mention that Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are supporting the legislation.
Rapper MC Hammer appeared to say that although the intent of the bills look favorable for artists on the surface, the legislation has fundamental flaws.
“Underneath it, as you drill down, you see all the other clauses that would put a burden on service providers,” Hammer said.
In a statement, Mayor Ed Lee joined The City’s tech leaders in calling the bills “overkill.”
“As a nation, we cannot afford to undermine our innovation economy, jeopardize thousands of jobs and threaten the basic architecture of the Internet,” Lee said.