Many of the same groups and lawmakers that banded together to help derail earlier this year two anti-piracy bills have reunited to formally launch Thursday a new coalition to help fight future threats to Internet freedom and innovation.
The Internet Defense League is made up of many of the same groups that fought the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Senate's Protect IP bill including Fight for the Future, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, and Public Knowledge.
These critics and others argued that both bills, which aimed to curb piracy and counterfeiting on foreign websites, would stifle free speech and innovation on the Internet. The bills were sidelined in January in the wake of an unprecedented blackout of thousands of websites around the world to protest the measures.
The league's "bottom up way recaptures the magic of SOPA and PIPA," Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the social news site Reddit, said during a conference call to announce the group's launch.
The group has taken on a superhero theme and will beam a Batman-like symbol of a cat over the skies of New York, Washington and San Francisco Thursday evening to announce the launch of the league - just as moviegoers line up to see the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." The group plans to distribute their cat signal to web publishers to use to protest future threats to the Internet.
League members announced an early focus on cybersecurity legislation being considered in the Senate known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act or CISPA. The group so far is not taking a position on net neutrality legislation, which calls for barring broadband providers from discriminating against Internet content.
Among those who joined the groups to announce the new league were some of the same lawmakers who fought SOPA and Protect IP including Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Jared Polis, D-Colo.
Wyden was the first senator to take on the anti-piracy legislation when in late 2010 he blocked an earlier version of Protect IP from moving to the Senate floor. Noting that it took two years to effectively kill SOPA and Protect IP, Wyden said Internet activists "won't always have that much time. With the Internet Defense League, we now have a way to move quickly."
Moran and Issa both urged the league to remain vigilant and united, particularly when it comes to copyright-related legislation.
"These battles particularly related to SOPA and PIPA are not behind us," Moran said. "Congress has a habit of doing things without much forethought."