House Judiciary Committee SOPA Hearings Stacked 5 To 1 In Favor Of Censoring The Internet

by Mike Masnick
Nov. 15, 2011

Apparently the folks behind SOPA are really scared to hear from the opposition. We all expected that the Judiciary Committee hearings wouldn't be a fair fight. In Congress, they rarely are fair fights. But most people expected the typical "three in favor, one against" weighted hearings. That's already childish, but it seems that the Judiciary Committee has decided to take the ridiculousness to new heights. We'd already mentioned last week that the Committee had rejected the request of NetCoalition to take part in the hearings. At the time, we'd heard that the hearings were going to be stacked four-to-one in favor of SOPA. However, the latest report coming out of the Committee is that they're so afraid to actually hear about the real opposition that they've lined up five pro-SOPA speakers and only one "against."

Why is the Judiciary Committee so afraid to hear the concerns of the wider internet industry?

The five "pro" speakers are the Register of Copryights, someone from the MPAA, someone from Pfizer, someone from MasterCard, and someone from the AFL-CIO. The choice of MasterCard is deliberate, since Visa is against the bill -- because Visa recognizes that supporting a bill that requires them to cut off customers based on accusations of infringement is going to be a huge burden, and one that isn't good for their own customers.

Furthermore, the "one" against SOPA is going to be Google. This is a strategic choice, because the pro-SOPA folks know that Google is easy to dismiss on this topic, because they'll claim (not accurately) that Google just wants to profit from infringement. Google is already under a lot of scrutiny in Congress, and so it makes it much easier for pro-SOPA supporters to say that "ah, the only opposition is Google." And, yet, that's not true. Companies throughout the tech and internet industries have expressed concerns. Facebook, Twitter, Mozilla, eBay and over 160 startups have all come out against the bill. This isn't "just a Google issue." This is an issue of the entertainment industry trying to change the fundamental legal and technical framework for how the internet has functioned -- and in doing so, creating tons of liability and compliance costs for the part of the economy that is growing and has been creating jobs. Just because Hollywood is jealous, doesn't mean that they should get to use Congress to punish the industry that's doing well.

Either way, it's quite stunning that the Committee has decided to go so far in stacking the deck, and it shows just how unwilling they are to hear the real concerns about the bill.

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