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Porn Gets Pulled Into National Debate Over SOPA

Porn Gets Pulled Into National Debate Over SOPA

WASHINGTON, D.C.—It didn’t take long for the national debate over the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) to include pornography. In at least two articles on the bill posted to the web yesterday, the legislation, which was the subject of a scheduled hearing Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee, was being touted as something that will benefit the adult entertainment industry in particular.

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In a HuffPo article titled “Sure SOPA Will Add Jobs ... for Trial Lawyers, Government Bureaucrats, Pornographers,” by Edwards J. Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communication Industry Association, the bill’s anticipated use by the industry is noted as a reason to oppose the bill.

“It is no secret that the porn industry is one of the most active in pursuing copyright enforcement cases,” wrote Black. “But while current targets are often individual infringers and fellow porn companies, [Senate version] Protect IP and SOPA would give these enforcers the ammo to target bigger game: larger publishing firms, web companies and even search engines that could unwittingly be drawn in to copyright battles.”

In another reference to the industry, The Daily Caller posted an article yesterday titled “Porn, Justin Bieber and net neutrality: House copyright law inspires PR war,” which also makes the case that the industry will be impacted by this bill.

“The adult film industry also has a stake in the matter,” wrote Josh Peterson. “Torrent Freak, a blog dedicated to BitTorrent-related news, reported that as of January 2011, the adult film industry had filed 99,924 law suits against users alleged to have shared adult materials via BitTorrent file-sharing technology, calling the lawsuits ‘predatory.’”

The implication being the same as Black’s: You thought the pornographers are targeting you now? Pass the SOPA and see what happens then!

But porners were not the bogeymen on the minds of lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. According to news reports, it was Google that came under a withering attack from supporters of the bill who see the search engine monolith as the embodiment of a piracy collaborator.

“The House Judiciary Committee’s three-hour hearing was as much a referendum on Google as it was a discussion of the merits of the Stop Online Piracy Act,” reported Politico. “Time and again the search giant served as a punching bag—for the committee chairman, for the Hollywood lobby and for the U.S. Copyright Office.”

It is not surprising that Google came in for such punishment. But for the inclusion of Katherine Oyama, Google’s policy counsel, the witness list included only supporters of the bill, including Maria Pallante, register of copyrights for the U.S. Library of Congress; John Clark, chief security officer and VP of global security for Pfizer; Michael O'Leary, senior executive vice president global policy and external affairs for the MPAA; Linda Kirkpatrick, group head, customer performance integrity for MasterCard; and Paul Almeida, president, dept. of professional employees for the AFL-CIO.

But legislators apparently needed no prodding from witnesses to target Google as a supporter of piracy. Right from the start, the knives were out for Google. According to Ars Technica, “Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) made it only halfway through his opening statement before asserting that ‘one of the companies represented here today has sought to obstruct the Committee’s consideration of bipartisan legislation. Perhaps this should come as no surprise given that Google just settled a federal criminal investigation into the company’s active promotion of rogue websites that pushed illegal prescription and counterfeit drugs on American consumers.’”

That was just the beginning of the drubbing Google was forced to endure yesterday as one witness and congressperson after another accused Google of burying links to legitimate copies of Hollywood movies while promoting links to pirate sites and opponents of the bill of the bill were pro-piracy.

It was left to Oyama as the lone witness in opposition to make the argument that the bill contains numerous definitions that are overbroad and essentially change the meaning of many laws on the books, and that the extreme remedies contained in SOPA will result in many legitimate sites being targeted and taken offline.

““There’s some concern about whether we’re looking at the whole site or one blog or one tweet,” said Oyama, “so getting the definition right is very important. We need to make sure we’re really staying inside the confines of existing copyright law.”

Two lawmakers did come down in the opposed column, according to Politico. “Two California lawmakers, Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Republican Darrell Issa, blasted the bill,” the site reported. “Issa said he plans to introduce a counter-proposal that would go after rogue sites using a model similar to the International Trade Commission’s. He said he opposes Smith’s bill because there are better tools law enforcement can use to go after rogue sites than the ones outlined in the bill.”

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has put a hold on the Senate's less extreme version of SOPA, the Protect IP Act, single-handedly keeping it from certain passage, has also expressed his opposition to SOPA.

If, as anticipated, the House Judiciary Committee passes SOPA, it will then go to the House floor for a vote, and then on to the Senate, if passed by the House.






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Tom Hymes

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