The markup in the House Judiciary Committee of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, has begun. Observers expect at least two days of markups, and the bill wouldn’t see the House floor until sometime thereafter, probably next year. There are over 60 amendments on the bill, and opponents on the committee are dragging out the proceedings. Rep. Zoe Lofgren refused to waive the reading of the bill, so Judiciary staffers needed to spend an hour doing that.
Understand that this bill is getting a hearing, and a markup, because very wealthy interests want it to pass. It so happens that very wealthy interests want it to fail, but that puts it on the agenda as well, because both sides can go to their funders and raise money off the threat of the bill passing or failing. This becomes a bonanza for K Street lobbyists. There are over 1,000 of them working on SOPA.
Zach Carter has another long piece in the Huffington Post on this issue, and it fits with the familiar theme of Congress being a way-station to mediate large corporate disputes. Like patent reform or the swipe fee bill, SOPA pits two powerful industries against one another – in this case, Hollywood versus Internet companies. And the amount of money thrown around to influence policymakers borders on the obscene.
“Hollywood and the recording industry have a one-item agenda. You can’t say to them, ‘If you go softer on this, I’ll give you that,’ because there’s no ‘that’ for them,” says Gigi Sohn, president and Co-Founder of Public Knowledge, the leading nonprofit on Internet freedom issues, and a staunch opponent of SOPA.
The top target has been the Judiciary Committee, a powerful circle of lawmakers that is responsible not only for intellectual property rules, but judicial appointments, bankruptcy law and scores of issues involving constitutional rights [….]
According to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan government transparency nonprofit, a full 16 former House Judiciary Committee staffers are now lobbying on intellectual property issues, with all but a handful pushing to enact SOPA.
So far, Hollywood, the more established industry, has won out. SOPA has bipartisan support (it also has bipartisan opposition; ideology doesn’t play as much of a role on this bill). If it weren’t for the serious grassroots opposition this probably would have passed already. But the large Internet companies have rallied, and the outcome is now more in doubt. Especially because Constitutional concerns have been raised.
The much-maligned Ron Wyden, he of Ryan-Wyden, is actually the hero on this bill, placing a hold on it and vowing to mount a filibuster if the bill reaches the Senate floor. The combination of grassroots organizing and the support inside Congress has led the supporters of SOPA to backtrack a bit, though not enough for the opposition’s tastes.
Still, there’s a lot of support on Capitol Hill to do the wishes of the content providers. If this means disabling websites, breaking the principle of net neutrality, hobbling the future for user-generated sites and fundamentally overturning the structure of the Internet, so be it.