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Posted by on Nov 16, 2011 in Business, Economy, Law, Politics | 5 comments

SOPA, High Tech Companies, And The Chamber Of Commerce

Yahoo cancelled its membership in the U. S. Chamber of Commerce last month. Google and the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents 2200 companies, are threatening to do the same. The rift has been caused by the Chamber’s support of, and high tech’s opposition to, the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA.

SOPA has backing from expected sources, many also members of the Chamber, including Hollywood interests, the recording industry and publishing concerns. Some labor unions have also joined in supporting the legislation. Opposing SOPA is most of the high tech world, including Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay and Mozilla who, with Google and Yahoo sent a letter urging Congress to “reconsider” the legislation. They have been joined by the Computer and Communications Industry Association, CCIA. Twitter and Foursquare have called for a no vote from Congress, and further opposition has come from AOL, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch. The later two are concerned about freedom of expression issues.

The furor has to do with sites that allow, often unwittingly, copyrighted material or otherwise intellectually protected product to appear on their sites. SOPA would open them to private action by those alleging copyright violation and could shut them down. The opposition position is explained at ComputerWorld , which details the concern saying

“The proposed law would allow copyright and IP owners to issue requests for service termination if just one page on a site containing thousands of pages is deemed to violate the provisions of the law.”

Those reading an internet site like The Moderate Voice probably do not need instruction in the potential impact on sites like Facebook, eBay or YouTube.

The legislation has broad and bipartisan support. Its sponsors cross the aisle and they cross conservative/liberal ideological boundaries. In the end it pits old industry against new, clearly favoring the old. The Internet has necessarily created a new reality, and new thinking about issues like intellectual property must follow. Simply ratcheting up enforcement mechanisms will not solve problems that require a more delicate and nuanced balance.