By Stephen C. Webster
The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (Protect IP) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) “are like two peas in a pod,” Sen. Ron Wyden, the bills’ most vocal opponent in the U.S. Senate, explained to Raw Story in an exclusive interview.
“These are Web blacklisting bills, Web censorship bills, and anybody with a Web site would be vulnerable,” he said, a tone of urgency prevailing in his voice.
“Had I not put a hold on it in May, it would have simply passed at that time,” Wyden continued. “I put a hold on the previous version back in December, and had I not put a public hold on it then, that version would have passed.”
Now, the Protect IP Act and SOPA are back, and this time seemingly with enough momentum to make it through Congress — but that could be changing.
The Business Software Alliance, a major industry advocacy group that once supported the bills, changed its mind just this week and is now working to oppose them.
Now companies like Apple, Microsoft and Intel are working to significantly alter the legislation, which critics say would fundamentally change the architecture of the Internet. Even Google and Facebook have come out against the bills, aruging that they simply go too far.
But they’re pitted against a collection of very powerful lobbies: the movie and music industries, along with other digital content providers like Sony and Nintendo.
“The other side, all of these lobbies, the content industry, is enormously powerful,” Wyden said. “They’ve spent hundreds of millions over the last few years in politics. They are very, very connected.”
“It is hard to accurately state how influential they are,” he went on. “[This lobby] has a history of making statements that are anti-innovation. It was not long ago when the motion picture industry said in a widely-viewed public forum that the VCR was to the movie industry what the Boston strangler was to women home alone. So, we’re up to a very savvy, very well financed lobby, and suffice it to say, these kinds of issues are a bit technical until people see what’s really at stake, which is a free and fair Internet.”
The only way to fight that kind of power and influence, he concluded, is to get Americans calling Congress, en masse, as soon as possible.
Should that effort fail, Wyden has a single last resort: an old school standing filibuster, during which he plans to read the names of people who sign his online petition against the bills. Over 60,000 have signed so far, his staff said.
But that’s still not enough, Wyden said: he may not have the votes to support his filibuster, meaning the Senate could simply override him.
“This is absolutely a crucial time,” he added. “The other side is going to try to override my hold, that’s what they’ll try and do, to see if they can get the votes in the Senate to proceed with the bill as written. That’s what I’m trying to block.”
“We’ve got to have folks all over the country who share our view, in terms of a free and open Internet, weighing in with their members of Congress with calls and emails and going to town hall meetings, everything they can do to get their voices heard in this government,” Wyden concluded. “If we can prevent this bill from coming to the floor as written, that’s the single most important step we can take.”