A colleague asked me today for a crash course on the “Stop Online Privacy Act” (SOPA). I sent him my feature at the O’Reilly Radar, where I wrote about how Congress is considering anti-piracy bills that could cripple Internet industries and harm digital innovation. The thing is, that post is about 6,000 words long and is now a month out of date. So here’s the briefing I sent back.
First, you should know the major players in the House of Representatives: Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of House Judiciary Committee. His staffers had a major hand in drafting it. He supports it. So do Reps. Goodlatte and Berman. Rep. Mel Watts is the congressman whose remarks about not understanding helped to fuel headlines like “Dear Congress, It’s No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works” and “Dear Internet: It’s No Longer OK to Not Know How Congress Works,” by Clay Johnson.
Who else supports SOPA? The RIAA, MPAA, big Hollywood and big labor. Ergo, there’s bipartisan coalition of 39 co-sponsors that supports it in the House or Representatives. Why? As always, follow the money. Oh, and all of these companies support SOPA too.
Who’s against SOPA? Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Jared Polis (D-CO) and most of the Internet industry. These four representatives introduced dozens of amendments during the markup of the SOPA that would have addressed the most damaging, controversial, vague or problematic aspects of the bill, post-manager’s amendment. (There’s a lot of those.) By raising them, they catalyzed two day’s worth of debate during the markup, effectively filibustering SOPA’s progress during the waning days of the legislative calendar. They essentially ran out the clock on the year at a time when the rest of the House was focused on other issues. See: payroll tax cut extension.
Rep. Michele Bachmann is the only GOP candidate I’ve heard talk about it, which is notable. I think there should have been a debate question about it and the Internet — but those aren’t up to me.
Key counterproposal: An “OPEN” bill from Rep. Issa and other opponents of SOPA. You can learn more about it keepthewebopen.com. There’s a lot that’s interesting about that site, including the text of both SOPA and OPEN enabled with public markup. The site hosted an embedded livestream of the markup hearings that drew hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Prospects for SOPA: mixed. On the one hand, it’s looking likely that it will pass out of committee.
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