Print 60 comment(s) - last by masamasa.. on Jan 23 at 5:29 PM

  (Source: Tristar Pictures)
Lobbyist bribery goes to waste for once, as Rep. Smith is forced to "postpone" SOPA indefinitely

UPDATE: PIPA is "dead"/postponed too... details at the end of the piece.

Over the weekend U.S. President Barack Obama's (D) cabinet hinted that he might veto the pending House's "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) and Senate's "PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) (S.968) out of concern that the bills Orwellian takedown provisions could damage the legitimate internet economy.  

I. The Rat Returns

With the support of politically enemy-turned-friend House Oversight Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Eric Cantor(R-Virg.) was compelled to promise to shelve any potential vote in the Republican-controlled House in terms of passing SOPA.  It was finally over -- the months of populist protest online, media criticism, and criticism from the online industry's top innovators like Google Inc. (GOOG) had paid off.  They had won.

Or so they thought.  On Monday support SOPA rose up from the dead, after Rep. Lamar Smith (R- Tex.) -- the bill's author in the House of Representatives -- said he would bring the bill to the floor for minor revisions and a February vote.  That led to the largest online protest that America has ever seen with tens of millions of Americans taking to the internet to post protest message, email their representatives, call their representatives, and sign petitions.

The bold populist outcry seemed to work.  First some Congresspeople jumped ship.  Then more did.

But even yesterday Rep. Smith -- whose office had done its fair share of copyright infringing -- was quoted as dismissing his constituents protest as a "publicity stunt" and vowing to ignore the people and bring the bill to vote.

II. Cornered, SOPA Meets Its End (For Now)

But on Friday afternoon a weay Rep. Smith took to the internet, tail tucked and admitted defeat, agreeing for the first time to shelve the bill.  The key word is he used is "postponed".  So it's fair to say SOPA is dead, but if you've ever played Resident Evil or watched South Park SOPA is a bit like Wesker or Kenny -- it may be dead -- but it will likely return next episode.

Rep. Smith ears shut
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) has finally listened after purposefully ignoring the criticism about SOPA for so long. [Image Source: Know Your Meme]

In his statement Rep. Smith writes:

The problem of online piracy is too big to ignore. American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports. The theft of America’s intellectual property costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs.  Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while American innovators and job creators are under attack.

The online theft of American intellectual property is no different than the theft of products from a store.  It is illegal and the law should be enforced both in the store and online.

The Committee will continue work with copyright owners, Internet companies, financial institutions to develop proposals that combat online piracy and protect America’s intellectual property.  We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how best to address this widespread problem.  The Committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation.

The numbers are debatable, but Rep. Smith is right on one key issue -- online piracy is an issue that needs to be addressed in some form.  Whether it should be big media finding easier ways to distribute content legally online, such as challenging Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) exclusivity contracts and bullying, which limit the number of legal distribution outlets, or the government finding a way to balance the rights of intellectual property holders with the people's right to reasonable justice, there's certainly cause to look for level-handed solutions in the public and private sector.

But at the same time Rep. Smith's statement is problematic as it couples two very different issues -- domestic piracy (sharing copyrighted works illegally via torrents, P2P, streaming, etc.) and foreign piracy.  

Foreign piracy is already a vast sea to navigate on, as it includes everything from stealing proprietary chipmaking technique from American fabs or engine part design from American fighter jets to your everyday bazaar merchant selling phony DVD copies of popular American films.  These kinds of abuses needs to be addressed, but in recent years Congress and the White House have essentially meekly bowed to China -- arguably the biggest single infringer of American goods -- afraid to speak up against it.

So when Rep. Lamar Smith talks about fighting foreign piracy, that's great but SOPA and Congress's past actions have done scant little to challenge infringer nations like China.  What they have done a whole lot to impose Orwellian takedown on the internet and punitive punishment on the American people.

III. Federal Bribery Must be Stopped

All of the piracy debate also overshadows a far greater base issue -- the allowance of blatant bribery in American federal politics.

Anti-streaming lobbyists paid an estimated 10 percent of all active U.S. Senators' combined election costs ($86M USD) and an unspecified amount (like in the high tens to low hundreds of millions of dollars) to the U.S. Congress, according to extensive research.  It's nice to see this kind of blatant bribery attempt fail for once.

But the real issue here is that if the bribery was smaller and the "bought" legislation didn't involve dramatic erosions of rights and free enterprise that SOPA did, the American people probably would have ignored it -- in fact that's what they been doing for a good couple decades now, as lobbying has grown into a flourishing mega-industry in the capital.

bribery pays
It's hard to get anything done in Washington these days without a bribe.
[Image Source: Google Images]

The end result is that while the American taxpayer and small business labor slavishly to pay their tax debt, the corporations with well-heeled lobbyists enjoy "tax holidays" and government grants.  These are kickbacks for bribes, plain as day, but politicians pretty them up with softer speak.

A recent peer-reviewed research study by the University of Kansas' business school showed that for every $1 spent bribing politicians in Washington D.C., corporate donors get an estimated $222 USD in tax exemptions and other financial kickbacks.  This bribery must be recognized and must be put to an end.  It is anti-innovation.  It is anti-freedom.  It is anti-American.

It is a huge problem that Americans must address, as they look back on their victory over SOPA and big media special interests.


PIPA, written by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (very similar to the House's Republican-written SOPA) is also dead or delayed ("postponed").  In a press release Sen. Reid echoes the words of his Republican colleague, Rep. Smith, writing:

In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.

The only major difference between Sen. Reid's and Sen. Smith's commentary seems to be little tidbits of party-appropriate rhetoric, designed to pander to their base's sensibilities.

Sen. Reid's uses a "union" analogy, in an effort to sway Democrat voters, while Sen. Smith's focus on "foreign" threats and his vow to "work with... financial institutions" buzz words he clearly hopes will please his voters.

Sources: Lamar Smith, Harry Reid, NPR [$1 lobbyist = $222 tax breaks]

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Populist or popular
By Moohbear on 1/20/2012 3:45:46 PM , Rating: 2
I've seen several articles using the term "populist; where I believe a better word would be "popular". Is it a conscious choice?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
1: a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people; especially often capitalized : a member of a United States political party formed in 1891 primarily to represent agrarian interests and to advocate the free coinage of silver and government control of monopolies
2: a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people

1: of or relating to the general public
2: suitable to the majority: as
a : adapted to or indicative of the understanding and taste of the majority <a popular history of the war>
b : suited to the means of the majority : inexpensive <sold at popular prices>
3: frequently encountered or widely accepted <a popular theory>
4: commonly liked or approved <a very popular girl>

Now, populist can mean what I think Jason wants it to mean, but the general acception has a certain connotation.

RE: Populist or popular
By ppardee on 1/20/2012 4:23:05 PM , Rating: 1
According to
1: ostentatious in one's learning.
2: overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.

One ought not be a picker of nits.


Seriously, thought. I think 'populist' is correct in this case because the outrage over the bill is because we the people believe that a free and open internet is the right of the common people.

The green movement is a popular movement because it is based solely on the fact that it is cool to be green (or at least was a few years ago).

The Tea Party is a populist movement (ok, not quite) because it is against the idea that the government knows how to spend the common person's money better than the person does.

RE: Populist or popular
By Moohbear on 1/20/2012 4:52:40 PM , Rating: 2
It's easy to bash someone but maybe I was not nitpicking but actually had a genuine doubt about the topic in question? And maybe english in not my mother tongue either ? The meaning of the two words overlaps, but there are also some significant differences. Jason clearly exposed his mind and I know have no doubt left.

RE: Populist or popular
By JasonMick on 1/20/2012 4:30:54 PM , Rating: 2
I've seen several articles using the term "populist; where I believe a better word would be "popular". Is it a conscious choice?

Yes, because in your definition you put, the key word is the "common" people, as in Americans that have to work for a living and don't have millions to bribe politicians to get their way, or aren't a politician who can grow fat like a leech off of blatant bribes.

I think in the beginning the SOPA opposition was not "popular" at all. Few in the "People Magazine" crowd had heard about it or new anything about why it was good or bad or why they should care. It was not popular. It was inherently "populist". It was a handful of people -- journalists, advocates -- and businesses reading the legislation and realizing the negative implications and then digging into the blatant bribery by big media that put it in place.

Only months later would this populist protest become also popular. I would argue attacking SOPA wasn't popular until exactly Wednesday when the SOPA strike hit.

I think for most people it was the combination of seeing Google with the protest image and being unable to use Wikipedia (especially the latter) that convinced them... forced them to care... At that point the protest become popular, as well as populist.

Some of those who finally came to look at the issues understood them, but I do worry because again many in the "People Magazine" crowd don't get what they were protesting.

I asked one friend of mine why she thought SOPA was bad and she said, "Oh yea I know why"

I could tell she didn't because I know her, so I was like "Oh really, why?"

And she was like well "I went to the Google thing, its about censoring the internet."

So I of coursed asked "That's sort of halfway right, but do you know what exactly it means? What would the law actually do? What specific provisions are bad? What aspects of its proposal were bad?"

At that point she became very confused -- she really had no idea what she was protesting and had never heard anything about the bribery that funded SOPA. Heck a much more informed friend of mine had never heard of the 10 percent of active Senators in bribes figure from Maplight.

(I was the first one I've seen who calculated it as an estimated percentage, as the Maplight study gave the more obtuse $86M USD figure, which is kind of ambiguous in terms of how big or small that really is versus a much more concrete % number, based on contributions versus campaign costs from other studies.)

We're fighting an information war, but we're also fighting a war against apathy.

My less informed friend says she votes for a Presidential candidate by "watching a couple of the debates" and then picking which one she thinks sounds the best/she likes the best. But I think she's probably in the majority... how many people really dig into what various candidates have voted on or done in the careers, what they stand for, have stood for?

Populist is a fair label as it encompasses all stages of the mounting opposition -- from the very early when I was covering it when it was in the works back in 2009-2010, to today when it's suddenly cool to post "STOP SOPA" on your FB wall, even though you have no idea what that means...

RE: Populist or popular
By Moohbear on 1/20/2012 4:45:23 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that populist can have the meaning you imply, but it does have some negative connotations, especially for a European such as me (demagoguery & anti-intellectual). But if you stand by it and by your post I can see you do, then you're certainly right.

RE: Populist or popular
By JasonMick on 1/20/2012 5:12:12 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that populist can have the meaning you imply, but it does have some negative connotations, especially for a European such as me (demagoguery & anti-intellectual). But if you stand by it and by your post I can see you do, then you're certainly right.

I think "populist" probably takes on more of a negative term in Europe do to it being abused in association with communist Eastern Europe/Russia not to long ago.

Ironically today Americans find their government increasingly looking a lot like cold war Russia. In Russia the communist government had seized and taken ownership of businesses, but today the situation is increasingly the same in America in that most decisions of government are controlled by a handful of mega-corporations and special interest groups who given their marriage to the politicians by bribery, have essentially become the de facto shadow government. Either way you have government ownership of key industry, increasingly Orwellian domestic spying laws and police provisions, attempts to stoke the populous' nationalistic fervor to trick them into ignoring the issues, and mounting economic problems.

Soviet Russia collapsed and if the U.S. continues along this path of bribery and corruption -- particularly at the federal level -- one can only wonder what will happen to it.

It's ironic... Adam Smith said the government should stay out of business... but what he failed to predict was the dangers of the reverse occurring... big business financially fondling for favors the government.

In the old days there weren't the mega corporations of today, so politicians had to be more overt in their intentions -- either you were a dictatorship/oligarchy (common), or your were a democracy/free republic (rare). Today people are in a far more dangerous system in which they are deceived into thinking their politicians work for them, when in fact, they work for corporate lobbyists and special interests.

RE: Populist or popular
By JasonMick on 1/20/2012 5:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
*I think "populist" probably takes on more of a negative term in Europe due to it being abused in association with communist Eastern Europe/Russia not too long ago.

...ugh homophones, sorry!

RE: Populist or popular
By michaelklachko on 1/20/2012 8:24:07 PM , Rating: 2
It's ironic... Adam Smith said the government should stay out of business... but what he failed to predict was the dangers of the reverse occurring... big business financially fondling for favors the government.

Actually, according to Chomsky, Adam Smith predicted that:

"...the principal architects of policy are the "merchants and manufacturers," and they make certain that their own interests are, in his words, "most peculiarly attended to," no matter what the effect on others..."

RE: Populist or popular
By Reclaimer77 on 1/20/2012 8:40:01 PM , Rating: 2
Chompsky *snort*

A rich man who owns stocks and has millions of dollars, who writes books and makes speeches telling others that doing the same is evil.

RE: Populist or popular
By lyeoh on 1/22/2012 1:38:57 PM , Rating: 2
Thing is even without SOPA or PIPA the USA managed to pwn megaupload, get a bunch of people arrested who are not US citizens, and weren't even in the USA... And still that is not enough power to use/abuse?

In contrast, when MF Global apparently broke rules and didn't keep customer money separate from trading accounts (and thus lost customer money) the people involved get to go about freely? AFAIK if I temporarily diverted other people's money to my bank account to trade, even if I always put the money back 100%, I'd be in big trouble if I got caught.

My country is racing the USA to the bottom, and the USA sure is providing strong competition...

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki