Media Moguls Harassed By Opponents of Piracy Legislation

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Top entertainment executives are being targeted for harassment by activists because of their companies' support of the Stop Online Piracy Act that is being discussed in Congress.

Sources say that Jeffrey Bewkes, chairman and CEO of Time Warner, one of many Hollywood conglomerates that have publicly backed the proposed anti-piracy legislation, recently received menacing phone calls and e-mails from SOPA critics. (One source says voice-mails have been left swearing at executives, though that has not been confirmed). Bewkes' personal information also has been disseminated online among activists opposing SOPA. A Time Warner spokesman declined to comment.

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Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that the activist group Anonymous has targeted Viacom-CBS mogul Sumner Redstone, posting a file online that ecourages members to call and e-mail him. It wasn't immediately clear if other industry players have been a target of hacking or harassment. Spokespeople for some entertainment giants said they were not aware of any cases of harassment or hacking at their companies, while others weren't available for comment.
 
What is clear, however, is that there has been a call to action online to show opposition to SOPA via phone calls and e-mail messages targeting companies and their executives that are pushing for SOPA.

In online forums, activists, including people associated with Anonymous, posted contact lists in recent weeks to rally SOPA critics — as is often the case with hotly discussed topics. But some of the calls to action were particularly harshly worded and included names of select executives' wives. "Attack supporting companies," says one playbook for SOPA critics that has been posted online. "Hack, leak and deface Web sites with the propaganda." The online initiatives have been given such names as Operation Hiroshima and Operation Blackout.

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PiratePad.net and Pastebin.com are among the sites where executive information and suggestions for protest have shown up. Some posts on Pastebin, for instance, call SOPA "the first step limiting what you watch online and allowing the government to know what you watch online" and claims that "no one should be able to hide behind a corporation, impunity for no one."

One post on the site recently listed phone numbers for Redstone; NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke; Sony, Sony Music and Sony Pictures; Walt Disney Co. and CEO Robert Iger; Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman; and Time Warner and Bewkes. Sites have mostly listed general company phone numbers that can easily be found in the public domain, but some also have mentioned select executive's work e-mail addresses and -- at least in one case -- a private number.

“They should feel threatened,” Barrett Brown, a Dallas-based online activist who has worked with Anonymous, told the NYT. “The idea is to put pressure on the politicians and companies supporting it.”
 
The movement indicates how hot a topic SOPA has become. The legislation would allow the Justice Department and copyright holders to seek court orders against sites seen as enabling copyright infringement. As a result, Internet service providers could be blocked from enabling access to such sites, search engines could be blocked from linking to them, and online ad networks and payment providers could be barred from doing business with them.

Hollywood and other proponents say the legislation would help protect intellectual property and industry jobs. Critics, such as Google and many tech firms, fear a negative effect on the development of the Internet and voice free-speech concerns.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

 

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