POLITICS JANUARY 19, 2012
For some of us at TNR, the most surprising aspect of yesterday’s Great Internet Blackout wasn’t the crushing recognition of just how often we head to Wikipedia—it was noticing the strange political bedfellows forged by SOPA, the House's Stop Internet Piracy Act, and its Senate analogue PIPA. In this hyper-partisan political climate, seeing Michele Bachmann on the same page as Nancy Pelosi, and Rupert Murdoch agree with avowed-liberal Patrick Leahy was unusual (and somewhat refreshing). Below are a few examples of where major politicians and companies (not to mention Justin Bieber) fall on the issue:
Andy Samberg, Aziz Ansari, and Trent Reznor
A group of “artists and creators” including SNL’s Andy Samberg, comedian Aziz Ansari, musician Trent Reznor, and author Neil Gaiman have attached their names to an open letter to Congress opposing both SOPA and PIPA.
In a speech on October 20, Rep. Michele Bachmann—leery of any big government regulation that mght stifle entrepeneurship—expressed concern that anti-piracy legislation might open the door to “innovation-stalling lawsuits.”
On January 14, Barack Obama came out against the bill, saying that he would not support something that reduces freedom of speech or threatens the ‘dynamic’ and ‘innovative’ Internet.
The New York City mayor compared telephones to today’s digital age, telling reporters, “If you make a threatening phone call over the telephone, going after the telephone company is not something that makes much sense.”
The minority leader came out against the bill on Twitter with the hashtag #Dontbreaktheinternet.
GoDaddy.com, the popular domain name registrar, was originally on the list of SOPA supporters until an internet boycott prompted CEO Walter Adelman to officially reverse the site’s stance last December.
In an interview with Washington DC Hot 99.5 Radio, Justin Bieber came out against SOPA saying the bill’s co-sponsor, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), should be put away: “Whoever she is, she needs to know that I’m saying she needs to be locked up—put away in cuffs.”
William Gibson, the noted science fiction author and inventor of the term cyberspace called SOPA “a basically crazily Draconian piece of legislation.”
American Express, Discover, and Visa
The three major credit card companies co-signed a May 25, 2011 letter—along with Silicon Valley players like Google, eBay, and PayPal—addressed to Senators Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley expressing their opposition to PIPA.
Visitors to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s admissions page Wednesday were greeted with a black screen with a message reading, “This is what MITAdmissions.org could look like under SOPA / PIPA.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says that PIPA “will help to protect U.S. workers and consumers against digital thieves and counterfeit scammers.” The union’s rosters include actors, technicians, musicians, and writers, who—according to the Trumka—stand to lose from online piracy.
Murdoch—who, as chairman of News Corps, owns entertainment studio 20th Century Fox—went on a Twitter tirade slamming Google and expressing his support for SOPA. A standout tweet: “Just been to google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering free links. I rest my case.”
“It is ironic that a website dedicated to providing information is spreading misinformation about the Stop Online Piracy Act,” the Texas Republican (and author of SOPA) said about the Wikipedia blackout. Incidentally, Smith received $60,800 from TV, movies, and music companies in this cycle.
The Democratic senator from Vermont, who raised $371,806 from TV, movies, and music companies in this cycle, is the co-author of PIPA.
Former Senator Chris Dodd is now chairman of the Motion Picture Association in America, one of the major lobbies pushing Congress for stricter anti-piracy legislation. Unsurprisingly, he released a statement on the eve of blackout day, assessing the anti-SOPA protests as “technology business interests resorting to stunts that punish their users, or turn them into corporate pawns.”
Viacom recently issued this anti-piracy video, which attempts to leverage popular figures like Spongebob Squarepants in order to garner support for the legislation. While the tone of the video suggests Viacom is hemorrhaging profits, it should be noted the company recorded double-digit growth for the 2011 fiscal year.
“It’s very difficult to compete with free,” Rick Cotton, general counsel of Comcast’s NBC Universal told The Wall Street Journal. “New business models and new offerings are going to get stifled in the crib if there’s an unlimited tidal wave of stolen content on the Internet.”