SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) lawmaker opposition grows as debate heats up

The Stop Online Piracy Act has caused backlash from tech giants, one of which has left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest. They received some support from lawmakers as debate on the bill continues. As Hayley Tsukayama reported:

While the Stop Online Piracy Act has a lot of bipartisan support, it’s also garnered quite a bit of lawmaker opposition — particularly from California politicians, who are joining Silicon Valley opposition to the bill.

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Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.) said Thursday on Twitter that Congress needs to “find a better solution” than SOPA, adding the hashtag “#DontBreakTheInternet.”

Earlier this week, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D), Doris Matsui (D), Mike Thompson (D), John Campbell (R), Zoe Lofgren (D), Mike Honda (D) and George Miller (D) all signed a letter to the House Judiciary Committee outlining their opposition. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Mike Doyle (D- Penn.), also signed the letter.

While the representatives agree with the spirit of the bill, they said “SOPA as written, however, is overly broad and would cause serious and long term damage to the technology industry, one of the few bright spots in our economy.”

Companies like Yahoo and Google have been vocal about their criticisms about the bill, even as motion picture companies and others lobby for SOPA’s passage. As Beth Marlowe explained:

Internet giants including Yahoo, Google, Facebook and the Consumer Electronics Association have joined forces to oppose the legislation, which they say would give the government too much power to shut down Web sites accused of pirating or counterfeiting content.

“Inexplicably, and almost overnight, SOPA has morphed into a full-on assault against lawful U.S. Internet companies,” said Markham C. Erickson, executive director of NetCoalition, a group representing Web firms and public interest groups opposed to the law.

Supporting the bill is a powerful group of lobbies interested in protecting intellectual property, including the Motion Picture Association of America, pharmaceutical makers, media firms and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Fundamentally, this is about jobs,” said Michael O’Leary, who represented the Motion Picture Association of America at a hearing Wednesday.

The Chamber estimates that Hollywood studios, record labels and publishing houses lose $135 billion in revenues each year from piracy and counterfeiting.

This clash of the Titans over SOPA has created major schisms.

Yahoo has already canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over SOPA, and Google is threatening to walk too.

Some analysts see bills like SOPA as sending the wrong message to the world about America and Internet innovation. As Dominic Basulto wrote :

This new legislation, if enacted, would strike at the very core of the way the Internet has been structured. Sharing, openness, and participation are at the core of what the Internet represents. When it comes to a choice between an open Internet and an Internet of walled gardens patrolled by government censors, there is no doubt which is preferable. As Booz & Co. pointed out in a recent study, the SOPA legislation could lead to a decline in Internet innovation.

The Chinese government attempts to portray dissidents as "pirates" and "rogues" outside the system. Entertainment interests are taking a similar approach, and have found what they consider to be the perfect bogeymen: the "rogue" sites and "overseas pirates" who steal content and make it available elsewhere on the Internet at a cheaper price. Under the cover of protecting intellectual property and making the Internet safe again for users, they risk destroying what makes the Internet so special and attractive to innovators and investors alike.

Certainly, a lot has changed on the Internet in just the past year. We have seen how bureaucratic, despotic governments in the Middle East have attempted to silence the majority through control of the Internet and how hacktivist organizations are ready, willing and able to go after government bodies that do not embrace the transparency of the Web. The new SOPA bill may not "cripple the Internet" as some have suggested, but passage would send a strong message to the world about the way the U.S. really views the flow of information, data and content across the Web.

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