NYC's Tech Industry Protests SOPA & PIPA Outside Offices Of Senators Schumer And Gillibrand

This afternoon, Consumerist headed over to check out an emergency NYC Tech Meetup protest outside the offices of Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both co-sponsors of anti-piracy legislation. Crowds gathered to hear speakers from the tech industry raise the cry against SOPA and PIPA.

Things started off slowly, with a few hundred protesters milling about in an area barricaded off by NYPD. And then the speakers, oh the speakers! Tech industry innovaters, insiders and all-around proponents of the Internet took to the stage, in between chants of “What does democracy look like?” Answer: “This is what democracy looks like!” By the end, bystanders made their own crowd outside the barricades, swelling the ranks to a non-math mind’s guess of about 500, ish.

As we were humbly scribbling on good old-fashioned pen and paper while simultaneously tweeting select tidbits, we’re going to just have a little paraphrasing going on below so you can catch the drift of what was going on today. Again, mostly paraphrasing, no throwing things!

Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of the Board, NYC Tech Meetup: Congress is proposing to redesign the Internet in a way that is detrimental to our Internet… We’ve had a renaissance of start-ups in New York City…. We oppose any piracy of any and all copyrighted material, however because of the poor way the legislation is written, there’s the very real possibility that PIPA and SOPA laws would vastly discourage open innovation, investment, entrepreneurship, and most importantly, free speech.

Scott Heiferman, Founder of NYC Tech Meetup: I think politicians have been bought off by Hollywood and Big Media. The Internet is made of people, a network of people. Do we have any people here? Who loves people? What are we here for? Oh yeah. Congress needs to know that the Internet shouldn’t be f****d with.

Clay Shirky, NYU: SOPA/PIPA won’t do much to stop piracy when it’s enforced on the domestic public. To politicians: First amendment, Internet, corporate control of the Internet — pick two.

John Perry Barlow, Electronic Frontier Foundation: We’re fighting the party of the past. Hollywood is out of step with its own market, and is willing to rob your descendants of the right to know. Don’t let that happen.

Jessica Lawrence, Managing Diretor, co-organizer of NYC Tech Meetup: Instead of working to save an old business model, the tech industry is creating a new business model. I was making signs at Kinko’s for this, and the guy making copies asked me about PIPA, and said, “That’s an awful, awful piece of legislation.”

Alexis Ohanian, Reddit: This has become an issue that’s much bigger than just saving the Internet now. This is a fight to save democracy. Our elected officials are beholden to the electorate, and not to lobbyists. We need to innovate, not legislate. That is why we are all here….

Andrew McLaughlin, Executive VP of Tumblr: The Internet works because it’s a democracy. The Internet works because it’s voluntary people working together to make the Internet flow… In 200 years or 150 years, when our grandchildren look back on this time, they’re gonna see the Internet as The Great Creation, The Great Contribution of our era to human progress. It’s that important, that we not screw it up… Let’s just remember in 1970, the head of the MPAA went in front of Congress and said that the VCR was to the movie industry what the Boston Strangler was to women. That’s an actual quote. They have a history of being freaked out by new technology. This is not the moment for Congress to come and kneecap the Internet. Let us work with the media industry, creators all over the world, to make them successful in ways that they’ve never dreamed before.

Aaron Swartz, Demand Progress: You are powerful. The bill was delayed because of you. Hollywood is spending tens of millions in back room deals to push this. There are 41 co-sponsors of this bill, six Republican leaders recently dropped support. More are speaking up against it, because of you. You can stop this bill if you don’t stop fighting.

UPDATE 5:24 p.m. — Senators Schumer and Gillibrand replied to our post with the following statement:

There are two important issues in this debate: continued freedom of expression on the Internet and the ability to block online piracy. We believe that both sides can come together on a solution that satisfies their respective concerns.

We’ve had many discussions and held many meetings with all parts of the Internet community – from users, to members of the NY Tech Meet-up, to start-ups, to big Internet firms like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo – to hear their concerns regarding this proposed legislation, and we’ll continue those discussions.

After constructive dialogue with many in the technology community, we have worked to make an important change in the bill regarding DNS provisions. We will continue to work with our colleagues to ensure a proper balance between stopping the theft of intellectual property and copyright infringement, and doing so without the unintended consequence of stifling or censoring the internet, which we strongly oppose. We have worked to make sure there are due process protections to ensure that legal activity over the Internet is not disrupted and that the web continues to be a place of innovation, intellectual freedom, and an unrestricted platform for the free exchange of ideas — and we welcome additional suggestions. While the threat to tens of thousands of New York jobs due to online piracy is real and must be addressed, it must be done in a way that allows the Internet and our tech companies to continue to flourish. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand