[A2k] Theopenglobe: Congress, SOPA, and special interests: following the money trail

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Sun Nov 20 18:01:41 PST 2011


Congress, SOPA, and special interests: following the money trail

Saturday, November 19, 2011
United States

According to statistics made available via OpenCongress and
OpenSecrets, Congressional sponsors of proposed legislation that would
give copyright holders broad powers to close websites have received
considerable financial contributions from the entertainment industry
and other groups.

The bill currently being debated by Congress is the Stop Online Piracy
Act (SOPA), a "market-based system to protect US customers and prevent
US funding of sites dedicated to theft of US property". It allows
intellectual property holders to order ad operators such as Google to
block sites that allegedly infringe upon copyright. Internet service
providers would also be able to block access of their own accord,
without a complaint even being filed, as long as they deem the sites
are "dedicated to the theft of US property."

Republican Rep. Howard Berman from California's 28th District was one
of the co-sponsors of SOPA. He received campaign contributions worth
US$303,550 from groups that supported SOPA, significantly more than
any other Representative. He was also the recipient of $376,600 in
donations with groups in connection with PROTECT IP, a bill similar to
SOPA, but currently placed on indefinite hold.

Meanwhile, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, introduced
PROTECT IP into Congress back in May; he is recorded as having
received a combined $772,250 in campaign donations from special
interests supporting it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took in
over $1 million from lobbyists supporting those bills, although he
does not appear to have made a stance one way or the other on the law

Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann, two of several Representatives who
co-signed a letter opposing SOPA, were absent from the top-ten list of

Among the groups OpenCongress lists as supporting SOPA and PROTECT IP
include various names in the entertainment, periodical, and computer
industries, such as: Microsoft, News Corporation, CBS, NBC, Comcast,
and others.

Several internet and human rights groups, however, came out against
the laws, including Google, Human Rights Watch, Visa, and American

OpenCongress says its data was taken from OpenSecrets, which calls
itself the "Center for Responsible Politics", and MapLight. The list
of top recipients, as well as a full list of groups supporting and
opposing the two bills, are visible here and here.
[edit] Opposition from the Web mounts, SOPA supporters speak out

Meanwhile, according to the AmericanCensorship.org website, over one
million emails have been sent to Congress to protest the proposed
legislature, as well as 3,000 physical letters. The website provides a
box allowing easy submission of an email to Congress. The default
email content suggested for submission is:

        "I am a constituent and I urge you to reject the Internet
Blacklist Bills (PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online
Piracy Act in the House). I do *not* want the government to have the
power to block websites. The Internet Blacklist bill will open the
sites I love to crushing lawsuits, and kill jobs in the tech sector. I
urge you to join Senator Wyden and other members of Congress in
opposing it."

6,000 websites are participating in the protest, which involves
replacing a portion of their logos with a black banner saying "STOP
CENSORSHIP" and linking back to AmericanCensorship. Big names such as
Mozilla, Creative Commons, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
among others, participated in the campaign.

The national register of copyrights, Maria Pallange, testified before
the House Wednesday in defence of SOPA, claiming it is needed to rein
in heavy pirating. "The Internet harbors a category of bad faith
actors whose very business models consist of infringing copyrighted
American books, software, movies, and music with impunity," she

Manon Anne Ress
Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA
manon.ress at keionline.org

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