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Rushe reports: "Hollywood executives spend $91m lobbying for approval of Stop Online Piracy Act, which tech industry says will stifle creativity."

Internet censorship, 06/15/09. (photo: The Inquistir)
Internet censorship, 06/15/09. (photo: The Inquistir)

Hollywood Executives Spend $91M Lobbying for SOPA Approval

By Dominic Rushe, Guardian UK

16 December 11


ollywood's most powerful executives and Silicon Valley's billionaires have been glued to the goings-on in a frills-free Washington committee room.

At the cost of thousands of dollars an hour, their army of lobbyists and lawyers spent much of Thursday watching a young woman reading – as fast as she could – a bill that has set the old and new media at each others' throats in a battle both sides claim is a fight to the death.

The reading and discussion of the amendments to the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) at the House Judiciary Committee looks set to continue Friday as committee members clashed over the impact of the bill.

In an opening statement, committee chairman Lamar Smith said: "Laws equip US authorities and rights holders to take action against criminals who operate within our borders. But there is no parallel authority that permits effective action against criminals who operate from abroad."

He argued that the amended bill would support US business while leaving the internet intact.

But fellow Republican and committee member Darrell Issa repeatedly clashed with Smith and other Sopa supporters. He said the bill "retains the fundamental flaws of its predecessor", and threatened the integrity as well as the entrepreneurial culture of the internet.

The drawn-out and contentious hearing is set to resume Friday. The debate was delayed for sometime after committee member Steve King tweeted: "We are debating the Stop Online Piracy Act and Shiela Jackson has so bored me that I'm killing time by surfing the internet."

Committee member Jackson demanded an apology, and a side debate ensued on King's first amendment right to tweet.

Both Hollywood and the tech community have spent millions as they battle over the future of the internet is regulated – but Hollywood appears to have the edge.

According to figures compiled by the Center For Responsive Politics, the film, music and TV industries have spent more than $91m so far this year lobbying for the approval of the bill. Disney, News Corp, the NFL, Time Warner, Sony and Viacom made a last-ditch effort to get the act through to the next stage this week.

"Every day, internet criminals use illegal foreign websites to steal from New York companies and hard-working Americans," they wrote in an open letter published in major media outlets. "These illegal foreign websites are destroying American jobs and causing billions in lost revenue."

Despite a concerted effort from the tech industry, the bill, with some amendments, could be finalised this week before going to the vote early next year. Another similar bill, the Protect IP Act, is currently with the Senate.

But the tech world has hit back hard. In a joint letter, Google's Sergey Brin, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, Huffington Post's Arriana Huffington and others warned Sopa and Protect IP will stifle innovation, undermine security online and give the US government powers to censor the web "similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran."

The bill has been amended to address some of the tech world's concerns, according to the committee. Smith said the bill's critics were "spreading lies about the legislation in an attempt to stall efforts by Congress to combat foreign rogue websites.

"Companies like Google have made billions by working with and promoting foreign rogue websites, so they have a vested interest in preventing Congress from stopping rogue sites."

Lamar said America's intellectual property industries provide 19m high-paying jobs to the US economy and accounted for more than 60% of US exports.

"Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America's most profitable and productive industries are under attack," he said.

But critics charge that even the modified bill still threatens to stifle creativity in the tech community and threatens the very plumbing of the internet. Art Brodsky, communications director at Public Knowledge, a Washington-based public interest group, said: "If there is a theft problem then there are a lot of better ways to deal with it. The issue here is about the solution."

Sopa would allow the US government to restrict illegal file-sharing sites by blocking their Domain Name System (DNS), which provides a website with its online address. The technique is the same as the one used to block unwanted sites in China and has alarmed free speech advocates.

But it has also worried internet firms from a technical, as well as an ethical, point of view. DNS is a global system that allows the same address to be reached from any internet-enabled device. The proposals threaten to undermine the integrity of that system while failing to tackle pirates who are used to re-routing their websites to avoid the authorities, argue Sopa's critics.

"We have the facts on our side but they have the numbers. It's not at all certain what the outcome will be," said Brodsky.

Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight For The Future, a lobbying group, said the amendments he had seen so far were "superficial and ambiguous" and Sopa remained a grave threat to creativity and freedom online.

"The internet has such a boon to society, it has allowed so much change and given people the ability to challenge the establishment, he said.

"Sopa is establishment interest fighting back." your social media marketing partner


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+7 # CandH 2011-12-16 18:13
Former Senator Chris Dodd, you ol lying backstabber:
+13 # mwd870 2011-12-16 18:25
Most people with a brain can see Sopa represents the beginning of the end of creativity and freedom online.

The gross amount of money spent on lobbying for vested interests (and on presidential campaigns) could solve most of the economic problems of our country. Big money does not belong in politics. The most important thing we can do is support the efforts to change the law.
0 # Remedy 2011-12-17 00:43
That much spent on lobbying tells you its in favor of corporations. Disgusting to spend such money on lobbying and presidential campaigns when so many americans are hurting..
+3 # sandyboy 2011-12-17 03:17
As I noted the other day, places like China have this ability, use it to stifle dissent, yet are still a major source of pirated dvds etc. Once these dudes have a power they will use it any damn way they please. Pirates make rare material available, including fan remixes of films that have been praised as better than the originals. This will ruin internet creativity.
+1 # cordleycoit 2011-12-17 06:21
One thing becomes clear. The Matrix was a documentary. I would suggest watching Adam Curtis's The Trap and reading S. Zizek's tomes on the subject to get a clearer picture of the depth of the indoctrination the corporations that rule us go to.
At each turn we find we live an a world based on lies.
The lie of indebtedness. The lie of lack of health care. The lie of the corporation's existence as a human. The lie of the scarcity of energy. The lie of the news. The mass of people are only seeing the tip of the lie we live.
+3 # 666 2011-12-17 07:11
What if corporations couldn't contribute any more to lobbyists and politicians than they paid in real income taxes?
-2 # douglassmyth 2011-12-18 18:45
I really don't know where I fall on this one. On the one hand, as a writer, I don't want to be ripped off if my books become movies--I wish--but on the other hand, I can't accept the idea of censoring the web. It should be worldwide, and it should be free to all. It is a creative agent of change, no argument.

As with everything, the right answer is a bit of both, but with lines carefully drawn. Unfortunately, the terms and the lines will be drawn by the big boys, and not by us.
+2 # awiseman 2011-12-28 07:26
What you are dealing with here is a fictional system which originated in ancient Mesopotamia. In Babylon the fictional system of corporatism was referred to as the "harannu". Harranu was a system devised by merchants, for merchants, to protect merchants. This system involves an ancient form of physics and mental manuipulation. Today the fiction known as "the Jew" have transformed themselves into "Golem Masters". They cunningly redeveloped the harannu [today's corporations], using themselves, into the fictional "golem" of Jewish folklore. Frankenstein was a golem, and men have become golems to this fictional people. This is why "the Jew" [merely another golem] has wandered the earth in search of other men whom they might manipulate through means of cunning and chicanery. All of the entities known as "states" are fictional golems. "Leaders" are golems and golem masters at the same time. The Sanhedrin which came about after the Babylonian captivity, was a bicameral congress. The Pharisees and Sadducees were your Senate and House of Representatives .

Wake up! This is the beast of Revelation, and the time of the end is upon the world. World government [the greatest golem fiction of all] is upon man.

SOPA is just another golem terminology and nothing more.

You are being manipulated to enable the fictions [Golem Masters] which head up the world governments [Golems] to have pensions and live off of the naive and ignorant.

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