OAKLAND– Last month the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) website faded to black in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).  MAG-Net joined the Internet strike led by high-traffic websites such as Wikipedia and Google, as well as thousands of other sites- including several local MAG-Net member sites.  The goal of the strike was to raise public awareness of the threat these groups say the proposed legislation poses to a free and open Internet.  

Of particular concern to these groups is the position that Minnesota Senator Al Franken has taken.  Senator Franken supports PIPA, the Senate version of the bill.  Known for his strong stand on free speech, Senator Franken has called an open Internet "the first amendment issue of our time."  He was also a featured speaker at the 2010 Minnesota Town Hall on the Future of the Internet, attended by more than a thousand Minnesotans.  Today, local MAG-Net groups visited the Senator's office to remind him that any legislation that promotes censorship limits the openness that he has championed.  "As a long time supporter of Internet freedom it is crucial that Senator Franken cease supporting PIPA," said Danielle Mkali of Main Street Project.  "In seeking to protect copyright infringement the Senator is risking the public's right to a free and open Internet. Minnesotans understand that this bill is far too harmful to our innovation and creativity." 

Opponents of the SOPA/PIPA legislation say that it's the vague language of the currently crafted legislation- not the intent- that is the biggest threat to Internet Freedom. "We need balanced policies that recognize the benefits of protecting copyright while not allowing large corporations to stifle freedom of speech and the advancement of culture," according to Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative with the New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, who is co-leading the delegation visit with the Minneapolis based Main Street Project. 

The delegation also says that stopping the SOPA/PIPA legislation is about more than protecting artists rights and free speech – it's about promoting a healthy economy and independent businesses in the United States.  "The people in our communities are more likely to make a living from their work because of their art- not the 1% who have to concern themselves with how the Internet is cutting into their movie, television or music profits," said Hakim Bellamy, Strategic Communications Director, Media Literacy Project. "We've figured out working for ourselves could provide much more creative and economic freedom than slaving for the owners. The Internet has emancipated poor people and communities of color from having our talent, issues and culture marginalized as not universal or profitable enough." 


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The Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) is a local-to-local advocacy network of over 100 grassroots community organizations working together for media change to end poverty, eliminate racism, and ensure human rights.


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