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Why SOPA and PROTECT-IP Are So Hard to Kill

November 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last week an unprecedented coalition of tech companies, internet users, and public-interest groups came together to fight legislation that would give corporations and the government new powers to censor the internet. The numbers are impressive — in just one day more than one million emails were sent to Congress and 88,000 phone calls were placed to representatives. But despite this viral, grassroots effort, the special interests behind the bills are still winning. They have spent years working behind the scenes on Capitol Hill to assemble an extensive, bipartisan network of powerful lawmakers, and they are perfectly positioned to see the bills be approved and signed into law this session.

At a time when cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in Congress is exceedingly rare, the web censorship bills — SOPA and PROTECT-IP — stand out for being truly bipartisan. Here are a few points about the bills’ bipartisan nature on a sponsorship level:

  • Sponsorship support from both majorities — The bills bridge the divided 112th Congress by having a Republican chief sponsor in the Republican House and a Democratic chief sponsor in the Democratic Senate.
  • Sponsorship by Committee Chairs — The vast majority of bills die in the committee they were referred to (about 90% of them), and probably the single most important factor in determining whether bills advances in the legislative process is if the chairman of the committee they are referred to are supportive. In this case the chairmen of the judiciary committees the bills were referred to in both chambers are the bills’ chief sponsors.
  • Co-sponsorship by Ranking members — The top-ranking minority members in both judiciary committees are also both original co-sponsors of the bills.
  • Deep bipartisan support — According to an analysis by the RIAA, which supports the bill: “1882 bills have been introduced in the Senate in this session, and only 31 other bills besides PROTECT IP similarly enjoy the support of at least 35 co-sponsors.  Of those 31, only 18 other bills enjoy substantial bipartisan support — that means a mere 19 bills total (including PROTECT IP) out of nearly 1900 introduced in the Senate this Congress.”

So how have these bills have so successfully overcome the partisan divide in Congress? For starters, just follow the money:

And that’s for just 2010 and 2011. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, between 2000 and 2009 the largest lobbying group backing the bills, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent $572 million on lobbying Congress. On the other hand, the biggest lobbying group opposing the bills, Google, spent $11 million over the same period.

Beyond the money invested, the industries supporting the bills have been involved in the influence game long before the companies leading the push against them — Google, Twitter, Facebook — even existed. This has helped them develop cozy relationships with lawmakers and intertwine themselves with Congress via the revolving door. For example, the Motion Pictures Association of America last year hired one of the most powerful members of Congress in recent history — former Senator Chris Dodd [D, CT] — to serve as their Chairman and CEO. While Google does have one former member of Congress lobbying for them this year (Dick Gephardt), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has six.

Taking Advantage of the Jobs Crisis

SOPA and PROTECT-IP are similar to the two major legislative accomplishments of this Congress so far (patent reform and the free trade deals) in an important way — they protect big, established businesses at the expense of start-up innovators, all supposedly in the name of protecting jobs.

Just like the patent bill’s first-to-file system favors big companies with their own in-house patenting resources over independent inventors with limited resources, and the free trade deals help large multinationals gain access to more cheap labor, SOPA and PROTECT-IP would create a new system for big content companies to leverage their resources against small, under-resourced start-ups through legal proceedings and DNS blocking. Under the bills, a company like Comcast that provides television and ISP services would have a mechanism for attacking any site with user-submitted content. For example, if they felt threatened by internet users turning to a website to watch video (instead of turning on Comcast cable), they could take action to shut it down, and as long as they have “reasonable belief” that there was infringing going on they would have full legal immunity to do so. Mike Masnick at TechDirt has written a fantastic article describing the many ways in which these bills threaten jobs, the economy, and innovation. I highly recommend you give it a read.

The potential for stifling business innovation is obvious, but recent history shows that Congress is willing to push it as long as it a) is good for big business, and b) can be called a “jobs bill.” Not surprisingly, the bill’s supporters have been talking about SOPA and PROTECT-IP as jobs bills more and more frequently. Last week NBCUniversal’s general counsel Rick Cotton told Politico: “This is a jobs bill, and we’re happy to do our part to cut through the confusion, make the truth known and enable U.S. innovation, creativity and technical invention to continue to support U.S. job growth.” And in a Dear Colleague letter last week, SOPA sponsor ”">Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX-21] said: “Rhetoric abounds regarding foreign threats to American jobs and wealth, especially during election season, but this legislation actually does something about it.” That these claims about job creation are impossible to back up hardly seems to matter to most members of Congress. What seems to matter is the fact that they are being made at all in relation to a bill that is supported by their corporate allies.

The PROTECT-IP Act is expected to be brought to the Senate floor by Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV], who, by the way, has already taken $665,420 this year from interests that support it. Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] has vowed to filibuster it, but he won’t be able to stop the bill from passing single-handedly. If you oppose these bills, take a minute right now to use our Contact-Congress tool to tell your senators to vote it down.

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  • CurtisNeeley 11/24/2011 1:34am

    Internet wire communications (47 USC §153 ¶(52)) should have been regulated by the FCC since 1934 as required by the Communications Act of 1934. SOPA is already simply remedial instructions for all the porn-hungry techies who feel its their “right” to search for “tits” and finally see some titty photos.

    UnReguLated Internet Locations(URLs) should have been regulated by the FCC since wire communications (47 USC §153 ¶(52) developed into the Internet instead.

    Eighth Circuit of the US Courts asked to order the FCC to regulate Internet wire communications (47 USC §153 ¶(52 de47/usc_sec_47_00000153——000-.html#52)) as required by laws already. SOPA or no-SOPA. None will matter at all then.
    PDF APPELLANT BRIEF (56 pages)

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    Nettacki 11/25/2011 12:11am

    You think Porn is the only concern that we techies have? NO! I think it’s FAR more than just some fap material, dammit!

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    akaraptis 11/25/2011 2:17pm

    This comment is truly mind boggling. You think porn is the reason people oppose this bill? Not the obvious and overwhelming damage to businesses who must upgrade their websites in order to avoid prosecution for crimes they didn’t commit, damage to commerce for those businesses, damage to innovation in this new and important privately-owned-public-space we call the internet, obvious risk of infringement on freedom of speech, etc.?

    One must conclude that you are grossly uninterested in the real arguments being put forth by millions of law-abiding US citizens.

    I don’t believe the owners of Zuccotti Park should be held responsible for crimes committed in the park by members of the public. Apparently you do.

    We’re not talking about a routine regulatory matter. We’re discussing the wholesale restructuring of humanity’s most utilitarian public forum, the internet. The negative ramifications stemming from passage of this bill would be immense for US citizens and humanity in general.

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    CurtisNeeley 11/25/2011 3:54pm

    The bill does nothing but protect IP from violations. The Internet is NOT a public place as all material presented is stored on a OWNED source. If an owner of a server allows or encourages free use of their servers to violate artists rights, the owners will be punished for the harm they facilitate. Free speech does not include “camping” in Zuccotti Park and it was not a public park.
    Legal free speech is not impacted WHATSOEVER by SOPA.

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    ximmvp 11/25/2011 7:36pm

    LOL you are so ignorant to think it only involves porn, lol get real

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    ZeroTime 11/26/2011 9:57am

    Nice try, but “URL” stands for Uniform Resource Locator.

    Also, if you think removing the safe harbor granted by the DMCA is a good idea, then you really aren’t thinking hard enough.

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    silkander 11/28/2011 2:05am

    What do you have against “porn-hungry techies”? Which now a days would be the vast majority of males aged 15-30. Why do you assume that everyone who opposes SOPA is a PHT? It seems as if you want the internet censored, why is that Mr. Neeley?

    You bringing up the arguments that you have seems to me to be a smokescreen to try to detour people from looking at the important issues at hand… like the liberties of people all over the world.

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    CurtisNeeley 11/28/2011 2:05pm

    The liberties of people will not be constrained whatsoever by SOPA in any way.
    Please explain what portion of the law impacts a liberty?

    “It seems as if you want the internet censored, why is that Mr. Neeley?”

    Yes, EXACTLY! I want the Internet censored because “users” of the Internet copied my nude art photos from the time photos could be displayed on computer screens in the late ’90s until now!
    Most felt-feel proper “attribution” excused re-display of these. There were scores of these nude photos displayed on various servers throughout the world. These were harvested by GOOG and MSFT in order to allow redisplay of these nudes to sell ads.

    I notified all the server owners and only a few remain against my wishes. GOOG and MSFT refuse to stop using these unauthorized server locations and bypass adult screening on the two servers I allow.

    The Internet will be censored by the FCC before I stop as already required by US laws that are ignored by the FCC.

  • CurtisNeeley 11/25/2011 11:14am

    “You think Porn is the only concern that we techies have?”- -Not the only concern but easily the main one driving most vocal detractors and probably Nettacki. The "Free-Speech" argument is an invented concern and ADULT speech is not entitled to ANY "Free-Speech" consideration whatsoever! The end is near for unauthenticated viewership of titties. Sure they will still be viewable online but not by the anonymous like "Nettacki". All viewership of “tits” by IP will be regulated.

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    lerath666 11/25/2011 11:54am

    Oh, I don’t know. I think the complete and total circumvention of due process is a much larger concern. why are you trying so hard to make this about porn?

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    CurtisNeeley 11/25/2011 3:56pm

    No injunction is EVER given without DUE Process. Read the bill more closely as I believe it full of due process provisions.

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    luminous 11/26/2011 12:36am

    Complete nonsense, This shifts the costs of enforcement onto the service providers, The cost of the service providers objecting to BS takedown notices will be so high as to cause them to be unable to fight them.

    Just like the DMCA, what will happen is the major labels movie/studio’s/etc will use automatic services that generate copyright complaints by the tens of millions without regard for the actual content merely based on frame matching or term matching. This happened with movie and game reviewers on youtube, or in some cases when content is parodied, both things clearly protected by the constitution and copyright law.

    All this does is create a method to on mass censor the internet because the “due process” part of the equation is grossly complex and designed to be difficult to access. And still clearly unconstitutional as the punitive measures such as the blocking of a website are executed before the “due process” has even been done. Guilty until proven innocent.

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    CurtisNeeley 11/26/2011 3:46am

    Incorrect or intentionally deceptive. Unless the DOJ or government gave a notice a surety amount would be required ensuring non-frivolous notices or non-frivolous injunctions shutting down infringing domains.

    Google Inc and NameMedia Inc simply ignored the DMCA notices I sent them. The DMCA is simply an ignored HOAX.

    “Copyrites” have been an oxymoronic term for 17 USC that recognizes NO RIGHTS but is only a government copying RITUAL.

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    luminous 11/26/2011 4:48pm

    Tell that to the Spoony experiment, That guy with the glasses, The angry video game nerd, Goodpeter(epic rap battles of history), Tea time with pinky pie, etc and so forth. All listed have either been banned, are currently banned, or simply gave up try to get their account back and moved to a different video service that charges for uploads to their accounts(and exists outside the United States).

    Perhaps you should make sure your notices fulfil the required legal format of the law, or submit them in both the format and location that is perscribed by google or whoever else you object to(generally simply emailing “I owns dat!!” is not enough).

    Not every has a lawyer, And good lord why should someone need one to post a parody or review of some major media companies pet franchise.

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    ZeroTime 11/26/2011 6:17pm

    You seem to be very hastily labeling all opposition to SOPA as “porn-hungry techies.”

    That’s exactly why organizations like Wikimedia, Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Electronic Frontier Foundation, ACLU, Reporters Without Borders, and still others oppose this bill, because they are all porn hungry, right?

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    CurtisNeeley 11/26/2011 8:47pm

    Absolutely NOT.I overemphasized pornography to relate it to my three-plus year Federal litigation against Google Inc and NameMedia Inc.

    I notified the DMCA agents enough to have been alleged to be harassing them. NameMedia ceased display of my nude art after the second DMCA agent was harassed or notified sufficiently.

    The end of the “open” unregulated Internet wire communications is now pending in Federal Court though it has been illegal since 1934.

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    ZeroTime 11/27/2011 8:13am

    The Communications Act of 1934 did not provide for any regulation of the Internet, and its reference to “wires” is clearly stated as being telephone communication. That is precisely why the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was put into place, so the old act could be updated (and this act also did not make unregulated Internet “illegal,” as you claim).

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    CurtisNeeley 11/27/2011 11:26am

    47 USC §153 ¶(52) follows and is linked plus the definition of telecommunications.
    Wire communication
    The term “wire communication” or “communication by wire” means the transmission of writing, signs, signals, pictures, and sounds of all kinds by aid of wire, cable, or other like connection between the points of origin and reception of such transmission, including all instrumentalities, facilities, apparatus, and services (among other things, the receipt, forwarding, and delivery of communications) incidental to such transmission.

    Clear enough for me. Google Inc, et al allege spending nearly half a million already over the last three years.

    Internet wire communications are telecommunications as is obvious enough for modern “Justices” to understand.

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    ZeroTime 11/27/2011 4:01pm

    The Internet and its content was declared a free market by the Telecommunications Act of 1996:

    “`(b) POLICY- It is the policy of the United States—

    `(2) to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation"

    Telecommunications Act of 1996 – TITLE V – SUBTITLE A – SEC. 509. – `SEC. 230.:

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    CurtisNeeley 11/27/2011 10:32pm

    Thanks for the link to the policy. Policy notation is useless!
    POLICY IS NOT LAW. Policy is just disclosure of intentions.
    The policy in 47 USC § 230 is as direct and suggests regulation and 47 USC § 230(b)(2) is your “unfettering” portion. Ha. Why stop there? § 230(b)(3,4,5)

    [U]nfettered by Federal or State regulation? Regulations that prevent copyrite violations and that prevent adult art from being displayed to minors and Muslims actually increases the “free-speech” qualities of the Internet by not forcing artists to trust filtration to protect minors.

    I want to display my figurenude art to adults by wire and Google Inc and Microsoft Corporation do not allow me to prevent display to minors and bypass adult filtration in order to show my figurenudes from two sites they are on.

    It is trivial to require self-rating websites and will be NEXT!

  • CurtisNeeley 11/27/2011 12:31am

    PDF APPELLANT BRIEF (56 pages)
    PDF APPELLEE BRIEF of NameMedia Inc (19 pages)
    PDF APPELLEE BRIEF of Google Inc (14 Pages)

    There is absolutely no question what will be ordered of the FCC.
    WIRE COMMUNICATION will be ordered REGULATED BY THE FCC even those disguised as the Internet.
    This will make SOPA trivial.

  • luminous 11/27/2011 3:40am

    You briefs read less like a legal document of law and more like a moral complaint which is confusing seeing as it appears you are the owner of the nude photo’s in question?

    The internet is regulated as a data service and not as a wired common carrier. They have yet to implement the internet nuetrality rules which would change it back but with carveouts and exceptions(not all regulation is bad you know).

    Siting relgious law in an American court? really?

    The nature of the technology behind much of the internet means content is cached for extended periods of time, TheWayBackMachine(neat site try it out). It can take time for things to occur, much of the content distribution system can be considered a “Push” network, Stuff gets Pushed out but it takes great effort to pull something back out.

    And considering the internet is a international medium every search engine in the world, browser cache, proxy cache can potentailly contain the content to again redistribute.

  • thecuteturtle 11/27/2011 10:39pm

    So in the end its all about money and support eh? how….. predictable. I guess corporations are our Illuminati after all LOL

  • Stephen89 11/30/2011 7:11pm

    If this bill passes its time to leave this country, turn us into a fascist nation and give the DoJ and Government more power to stomp on our freedom of speech some more. People can only take so much before they crack. It seems corporations (who already make way more than they ever need to) and anybody supporting this bill which violates so many rights its not even funny didn’t pay attention in history class. All great powers come to an end. Quicker to those who abuse it the worse.

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  • AustinCarpetCleaning 06/05/2012 6:13pm

    I would like to know the corporations lobbying behind these bills. There has to be someone paying a lot of money to continue to have SOPA and CISPA generated over and over. It would have a huge impact on the industry I am in which Austin Carpet Cleaners and other business like ours.

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