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The Rise of the Geek Lobby

In a time of legislative gridlock, the Stop Online Piracy Act looked like a rare bipartisan breakthrough. The bill, known as SOPA, promised a brave new Internet—one cleansed of “rogue websites” that hawk pirated songs and movies as well as counterfeit goods. For Congress, the legislation’s goals amounted to a can’t-lose trifecta: uphold justice, protect legitimate businesses (and jobs!), and make the Web safer for law-abiding consumers. Who could be against that?

But something happened on the way to easy passage and the flourish of the president’s signature: The Internet fought back. The groundswell started with open-Internet stalwarts like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy & Technology.