MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd came out swinging Tuesday in the fight over pending Internet anti-piracy legislation calling online web sites and tech companies supporting Wednesday's "Blackout Day" protest "irresponsible" and calling their protest action "a disservice to people who rely on them for information" or use their services.
"It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today," said Dodd in a statement. "It's a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests."
Among those who have said their sites would go dark on Wednesday are the English-language version of Wikipedia, Reddit (which will do dark for 12 hours) and the Cheezburger Network, which provides comedy and news blogs. By some accounts thousands of other sites planned to go dark as well.
"A so-called "blackout" is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals," continued Dodd. "It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this "blackout" to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy."
Dodd notes that this protest comes only days after the White House said in a blog post it will not support legislation that "reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."
Since then supporters of the SOPA bill in the House and the Protect IP bill in the Senate have said they will consider making modifications to get the legislation passed.
"Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together," said Dodd, "some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging."
Google has said that it will not go dark but the tech giant will post on its home page information supporting those who want the bills altered or killed.
A House committee is expected to resume working on the SOPA bill on Jan. 24, looking at dozens of amendments that have been proposed.
Since Dodd, formerly a Senator from Connecticut, took the MPAA job last year, he has made piracy and in particular passage of the two pending bills a central theme of his efforts on behalf of Hollywood's most visible association in Washington. Much of the entertainment industry has rallied behind the legislation, along with the drug industry, but in recent months opposition has been mounting from tech companies and advocates of keeping the Internet an open and free zone.