Controversy over a new copyright bill continues to grow in Washington, D.C., with both proponents and detractors signing up new allies and sharpening their rhetoric. Even pop icon Justin Bieber has made an appearance.
The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, introduced last week in the House of Representatives to the applause of lobbyists for Hollywood and other large content holders, is designed to make allegedly copyright-infringing Web sites, sometimes called “rogue” Web sites, virtually disappear from the Internet.
That goes too far and hinders freedom of speech and innovation, the Consumer Electronics Association, NetCoalition, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association trade groups said in a letter sent to House members. SOPA could “constrain economic growth and threaten a vital sector of the U.S. economy and a major source of global competitiveness,” it warned.
Content owners responded a few hours later by publicizing a pair of letters of their own from the National Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Fire Fighters. The firefighters’ letter was actually written in September and was endorsing a similar-but-not-quite-the-same Senate bill, but its message was unmistakable: “Legislation targeting these foreign rogue Web sites will encourage Internet users to find legitimate sources for goods and content (and) will ensure that counterfeiters and pirates can no longer profit from this clearly illegal activity.”
SOPA is so controversial–the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls it “disastrous”–because it would force changes to the Domain Name System and effectively create a blacklist of Internet domains suspected of intellectual property violations. Critics are, however, outgunned: SOPA’s backers include the Republican or Democratic heads of all the relevant House and Senate committees, and groups as unlikely as the Teamsters have embraced it on the theory that it will protect U.S. jobs.
And then, of course, there’s Justin Bieber. Bieber was making the rounds of radio shows last week to promote his forthcoming Christmas record. He tweeted that he was up at “5:30 this morning to do radio phoners and now off to do interviews”–when a host on a Washington, D.C.-area radio station asked him about proposed restrictions on streaming unlicensed content. Some of the finer points were lost in the interview, including what bill was being talked about, and what it would actually criminalize. But Bieber did say, referring to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who sponsored the Senate version: “Whomever she is she needs to know that I’m saying she needs to be locked up, put away in cuffs…I just think that’s ridiculous.”
That will surely please the fans who launched the thoughtfully-illustrated FreeBieber.org Web site, which warns that “Justin faces 5 brutal years in prison” thanks to proposed copyright law changes.
I never thought much of Justin Bieber before, but whether or not he knows what he’s talking about, at least he landed on the right side of the issue.
Thanks to Declan McCullagh at CNet News, and
Thanks for “listening”
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