Colin McEnroe Show: SOPA & PIPA: A Guide To Internet Censorship

Are SOPA and PIPA attacks on the core freedoms of the Internet?

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Colin McEnroe Show: SOPA & PIPA: A Guide To Internet Censorship
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Colin McEnroe Show: SOPA & PIPA: A Guide To Internet Censorship

It's hard to keep an even keel about the debate over the two Internet anti-piracy laws known as SOPA and PIPA.

Yesterday's spectacle, if it revealed nothing else, showed what a flimsy connection there is between a congressmen "co-sponsoring" a bill and that same congressmen knowing what's in the bill.

After yesterday's show of force,  a number of congressmen withdrew their support for their co-sponsorship because ... wait for it ... they didn't agree with the content of the bills.

A lot of the confusion had to do, as usual, with money. Congressmen get a lot more money from the supporters of SOPA than they do from the opponents. But it leads me to wonder what we were really seeing yesterday. Who's aggregating the new power? We just saw Google and Facebook crush Viacom and the MPAA. But was that like watching the natural gas industry crush Big Oil? Are the new titans any different?

Leave your comments below, e-mail or Tweet us @wnprcolin.




The noteworthy thing about SOPA is not how bad it was---and will continue to be, as you can be certain that it is not dead---but rather, how far it got before the electorate caught on. "The interests" work best and most effectively beneath the radar, and until Wiki turned on the lights by turning itself off, SOPA was snaking forward to easy passage. When Hollywood, the recording industry, and Rupert Murdock get together, and one or the other provides a Senator with a ten-sentence rationale as to why a self-serving piece of legislation is in the public interest, they are giving the Senator all he needs to justiry a vote in favor of the bad guys. And if constituents should catch on later, well. . . any vote can be spun, and if all else fails, one can fall always fall back on "with the magnitude of our work on The Hill, inevitably some things will sneak by even the most conscientious senator." Very few U. S. Senators of either party are entitled to the presumption of bona fides. In this case the public was lucky: Wiki turned spotlights on the game, and all the Senators ran like hell, yelling "cheese it; the cops!"

Hollywood is especially adept at this game. Just as a for-example: You probably knew that the Dodd-Frank bill contains 2000-plus pages virtually all of it outlining areas for regulation which the bill directs regulatory agencies to adopt. But I bet that you did not know that one of the few black-letter proscriptions in the act is one which prohibits internet trading of futures on motion picture revenues, a clause which was inserted after a contrary ruling had been adopted —over the objections of the MPAA--by the appropriate federal regulatory agency It was put into the Senate version of the bill attracting virtually no attention, and Barney Frank said that he viewed it as a Senate matter and that whatever the Senate did with it would be OK with him. Most commentators are still unaware that such a provision is part of the Act as adopted.

Hollywood’s success with the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 attracted more attention. (You just know that anything named after Sonny Bono has to be wholesome.) That one extended the protection afforded to creators of intellectual property---such as Colin McEroe—by an additional twenty years. This bill not only benefitted you, its benefits extended even to Walter Disney, whose copyrights on Mickey Mouse had a newly extended lifespan of 125 years. Did you— McEroe —impliedly lead congresspeople to expect that a "correct" vote on the issue would bring a campaign contribution for you?

Hollywood isn’t done yet on SOPA. As Chris has said, the MPAA will work out the "problems" with the internet crowd, by which he means the kingpins of the internet industry. The interests of the internet barons with whom Chris will "work things out," do not necessarily overlap with those of the general public.
I couldn’t help but take note of your touch of revulsion directed at Chris Dodd personally, which seemed to say that you had expected better of him---as if you had believed him when he had said "I won’t be lobbying," and are now disappointed to find him go back on his word. I’m hoping that that was a literary device. No one was entitled to expect that Chris would ignore the lessons of his great teacher, Tom Daschle, and turn his back on the three decades of good will which Chris had assiduously cultivated within the finance community, in order to retreat to an ivory tower on a college campus.

Thanks for your typically incisive commentary on this important issue, and
Best Wishes,