Growing Opposition Renders SOPA DOA

BY Ali Sternburg
November 21, 2011

Days after an unbalanced Congressional hearing on a bill to crackdown on online copyright infringement, a government cybersecurity expert has written to Congress warning H.R. 3261 would “negatively impact” cybersecurity — and not be effective at the stated goal of reducing piracy.

So far House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith has not responded to news media inquiries about the warning letter from the director of Sandia National Laboratories.

The House held a hearing on SOPA November 16.  Five of the six witnesses testified in favor of the bill, which is no surprise given their immense and long-standing lobbying power.

Opposition was growing leading up to the hearing, as numerous prominent organizations submitted official letters expressing various reservations about the misguided means—censorship—chosen to achieve the end goal of stopping piracy.  Content industries pushing misguided legislation rather than update their business models is certainly nothing new, but it is possible that this iteration is different.  For one thing, the response of individuals and organizations speaking out via the Internet has been astounding.  An initiative by Tumblr led to 87,834 phone calls to Representatives.  In addition, according to the anti-SOPA activism hub americancensorship.org, over 1,000,000 emails were sent to Congress, as well as over 3,000 handwritten letters.  AmericanCensorship.org also reports that 6,000 websites signed up to censor their logos or various parts of their sites, which included the Mozilla Start Page, the Tumblr dashboard, 4chan, Boing Boing, the homepage of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and reddit.  This phenomenal effort not only effectively used the Internet for grassroots organizing, but it demonstrated the actual harms that this bill could cause to Internet users relying on free online services for speech in their daily lives.

During the hearing, in addition to the expected opposition from Reps. Lofgren and Issa, Reps. Lungren, Jackson Lee, Waters, Cohen and Johnson “expressed significant concerns” about issues including the harms to DNS, the impact on entrepreneurs and innovation, and the international ramifications of setting a precedent for other nations’ censorship.  Nancy Pelosi and Darrell Issa had this memorable exchange on Twitter:

@NancyPelosi:  Need to find a better solution than #SOPA #DontBreakTheInternet MT @jeffreyrodman: Where do you stand on Internet censoring and #SOPA?

@DarrellIssa:  If even we agree… RT @NancyPelosi: Need to find a better solution than #SOPA #DontBreakTheInternet Cc @jeffreyrodman

Also, after the hearing, Senators Rand Paul, Jerry Moran, and Maria Cantwell pledged that they will support Ron Wyden in his hold on the bill.  Michele Bachmann had spoken out about PROTECT IP last month, before SOPA, and SOPA is even worse than PROTECT IP.

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