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January 10, 2012

Reader Comments on SOPA and PIPA Internet Blocking Bills

If either House bill SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) or Senate bill PIPA (Protect IP Act) or something in between passes both houses of Congress and is signed by the President, Internet censorship, unreachable websites, and forbidden searches will be the law of this land – just as in China. I blogged last week about the dangers these bills pose in return for helping Hollywood assure that none of its content is pirated. Readers have weighed in with some more data, questions, and amplifications. In addition, there is more useful information from twitter which I'll pass on below.

Vermont Tiger reader Will Workman commented:

"Okay, so I'll protest this law as soon as someone shows me a better way to protect intellectual property on the internet. By some estimates, 15% of all internet commerce involves stolen IP, either media available online, or offers to sell knockoff goods…

"So I repeat, are you just going to condemn a "Hollywood lobby" or are you going to propose a better way to stop the rampant IP theft on the internet?"

As he says, piracy is a real problem. Turns out that the "Internet Industry" has presented an alternative to address these real problems of piracy. According to ReadWriteWeb:

"The OPEN act sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would allow the International Trade Commission to order online ad networks and payment processors to sever ties withe foreign websites that are targeted by patent infringement claims…

""[The OPEN Act's] approach targets foreign rogue sites without inflicting collateral damage on legitimate, law-abiding U.S. Internet companies by bringing well-established international trade remedies to bear on this problem," AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo and Zynga wrote in a letter to Issa and Wyden in December."

In other words, OPEN seeks to sever the money links to pirate sites and stop otherwise legit sites from profiting by supporting them but does NOT include blocking our access to parts of the web.

Tiger reader Aaron S. Hawley wrote:

"Yes, it is bad policy. Fortunately it died last year with COICA but has been resurrected. What are the dots connecting Leahy to the lobbyists that cause him to peddle this kind of legislation in the first place? Last I checked, Hollywood is in Los Angeles, not Vermont. Does he owe favors for being in the Batman movie?"

Tiger reader Robin of Stowe responded to Aaron:

"According to the F.E.C., our Senator Leahy has been paid over $1,000,000 since 2000 by the entertainment industry. Here is the legislation they paid for.

"BTW, our Senior Senator was not in any way mis-led. He went in with eyes wide open, knowing the job he had to do. His record of Hollywood protecting legislation goes back over several sessions of Congress."

I emailed Robin and asked for a source for this allegation. Robin gave me a link to a page on Leahy on opensecrets.org. It says that his top two contributors since 1989 have been Time Warner and Walt Disney Company and that his top three contributor categories are Lawyers/Law Firms, TV/Movies/Music, and Lobbyists. There is a disclaimer which is important: "The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations' PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates." The top metro areas in contributions to the Senator are Washington, DC and Los Angeles-Long Beach (which includes Hollywood).

To be fair, it does make sense for organizations to contribute to congresspeople who agree with and support their positions. These are the people they want to see re-elected.

A tweet pointed me to sopaopra.org. This is a cool site which lets you sort SOPA and PIPA opponents and proponents by how much they have received from the Movie/Music/TV industry, the Computers/Net industry, or the difference between the two amounts. Not surprisingly there is a high correlation between positions and contributions. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) are not listed as either opponents or proponents so contacting them may be a very good idea for Vermonters. Non-Vermonters can reach their congresspeople through http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.

You can also sign a petition at whitehouse.org asking the President to veto these bills or anything like them if they ever reach his desk. You have to sign up with whitehouse.org to do this, but you can ask that President Obama not send you any messages.

Related post:

SOPA and PIPA are Bipartisan Bad Policy, Really Bad Policy

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