Common ground for strange Web bedfellows
President Obama came out against some of the provisions in the two bills in Congress that would put the boot on online piracy so you’d think the remaining Republican contenders would make it one of their top priorities to pass the bills, no?
You would be wrong, Bucky. At last night’s debate, all four GOP contenders were unequivocal in their opposition to the Senate’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the House version, Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA.)
In essence, the two bills would require search engines and other Web sites to become the online police in cleaning up the theft of other’s work. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and backed by a host of Left Coast elite headed up by Christopher Dodd, the former Connecticut senator who is now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America. And there seemed for a time that this was a bipartisan effort that might actually have a chance to pass.
But then the might of the Internet came down with a worldwide web of protest never before seen that caused many a Republican lawmaker to retreat and others, such as Sen. Scott Brown, to announce they would vote against the bill if it indeed came up as promised. But it won’t because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning he is postponing the planned vote that was slated for Tuesday. No one ever said Reid can’t count.
Tech companies protested the bills were so loosely written, they could allow some large music and movie entities to force them to shut down if a questionable site ended up on their search engines. More than 7,000 Internet sites went dark in protest, including some of the biggest names such as Google and Wikipedia, giving the world a taste of what it was like in the days of the Luddites. It was effective. And impressive in who it aligned.
The ideology, if not the actual power, of the Occupy Wall Street movement was a major force behind the protest and the opposition also drew the likes of Al Jazeera and a slew of liberal bloggers.
The Republican opposition, though, may be easily summed up by Newt Gingrich’s reply in last night’s debate.
“Well, you’re asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood,” he kind of joked, although it may have something to do with Rupert Murdoch tweeting his feelings.
There could be a price to pay for Obama, as the Los Angeles Times and others report Hollywood heavies, who have been among his strongest backers, are none-too-pleased with his stance and it could result in a fundraising hit for the president.
But perhaps this is not as complicated as it seems. Keller@Large has a solution to online piracy: Stop stealing.
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Brian McGrory attends a non-protest in Hingham.
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