Hollywood Guilds Release Statement of Support for SOPA on Day of 'Blackout' Protests

2:59 PM PST 01/18/2012 by Alex Ben Block

The DGA, AFTRA and SAG are among the groups to send a passionate letter in support of the anti-piracy legislation on the same day that Internet sites go dark to express opposition to the proposed law.

The Directors Guild of America, the Teamsters and several other Hollywood guilds on Wednesday reiterated their support for the SOPA and PIPA legislation designed to combat piracy of intellectual content by foreign websites.

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In a passionate letter to senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, both Democrats representing New York, the guilds praised the two for their support despite efforts by “a few enormous Internet companies like Google” to divert “support away from the bills by blanketing the Internet with mistruths, lies and using fear tactics and blacklists to overwhelm and intimidate those who should stand up for protecting American creativity and American workers.”

"We are greatly offended that our advocacy for this bill has turned into an implication that we promote censorship,” says the letter. “Our commitment to the First Amendment is decades old and long established — it is a matter of public record from long before the word “Internet” was part of our vocabulary. Freedom of expression is the very foundation of the work our members create and of the business in which they work. Moreover, stealing is not free speech. We are equally as offended at the implication that we are part of an “industry of the past” standing in the way of the innovation of the future. Our members work at the very intersection of creativity and technology; what the public sees on the screen today is ample evidence of that. Technology companies do not have the only claim to innovation, and for them to claim so is absurd.”

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The letter was sent on the same day a number of websites have gone dark to protest the proposed laws and Google is publishing its opposition on its home page.

The letter implies that the real reason Google and others oppose the legislation is financial:  “We are well aware that opposition voices, funded and encouraged by a few enormous Internet companies like Google that stand to lose billions in illicit profit (as shown by Google’s willingness to pay a $500 million fine for knowingly placing ads on illegal pharmaceutical sites), if the bills are allowed to become law, have grown louder and shriller in an effort to sway public opinion and derail the political process. They have successfully diverted support from the bills by blanketing the Internet with mistruths and lies and using fear tactics and blacklists to overwhelm and intimidate those who should stand up for protecting American creativity and American workers. In some instances, they have even kept our voice off the Internet in an effort to stall any who don’t agree with them.”

They say those who see the proposed law as a way to stop innovation or the growth of the Internet are wrong: “The PROTECT IP Act does nothing more than make it possible for the U.S. government to handle illegal foreign websites in the same manner it can already do — and has been doing -- with illegal U.S. sites. It has no impact on all the legal U.S. sites that people are being told will disappear under the PROTECT IP Act, nor will it keep American citizens from the Internet they know and depend on.”

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The letter was sent by the American Federation of Musicians; American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; the DGA; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and the Screen Actors Guild.

Also Wednesday, Creative America, a group that has support from the same group of guilds and unions, put up an animated banner ad, "What to Do During an Internet Blackout" on its website that is meant as an answer to opponents of the bills. It also placed the message on a huge billboard in New York’s Times Square that was to play all day Wednesday. Suggestions include: "Read a book. Listen to music. Go to a movie. Watch the game. Tune into a show," which the group says represents “all types of content that are currently threatened by foreign rogue sites that traffic in stolen content.”

The billboard also says: "Fight a pirate. Read a bill — the Stop Online Piracy Act. The Protect IP Act. And, save American jobs."

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