As political support for the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills is waning in Washington, unions representing Hollywood talent urged congressional supporters to hang tough and took aim at Google and other backers of Wednesday's massive Internet blackout.
"We know the pressure that you are getting to renege on your commitment," the guilds wrote in a letter to Democratic senators from New York, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, co-sponsors of the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which will be taken up by the Senate next week. "We are the voice of thousands of individuals who thank you for your standing steadfast against this barrage and in support of the jobs of our members."
The letter, signed by unions representing more than 400,000 actors, directors, performers and crafts people, defended the bill, which has been blasted by major tech companies as an impediment to free speech that could force some legitimate companies to shut down. But the unions accused Google and other critics of distorting facts about what the bill would actually do.
"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 sites. It has no impact at all on the legal U.S. sites that people are being told will disappear.... We are greatly offended that our advocacy of this bill has turned into an implication that we promote censorship. 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."
The letter was written by representatives of the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the American Federation of Musicians.
Like many of her peers, Kathy Garmezy, associate executive director for government affairs at the Directors Guild of America, expressed frustration at how Silicon Valley has seized the debate over PIPA and the Stop Online Piracy Act. "They've been very successful in twisting the nature of the debate,'' said Garmezy. "It's always easier to tell a lie than to tell the truth. And if you have the full means of communication and are controlling that as a vehicle, it's pretty easy."
Photo: Demonstrators in New York protest proposed anti-piracy legislation that opponents say could lead to censorship online and force some websites out of business. Credit: Richard Drew / Associated Press