Will The Next Secretary Of State Support Internet Freedom Or SOPA?
from the let's-hope-for-internet-freedom dept
Last week, we noted that one of Hollywood’s favorite Congressional Reps., Howard Berman had lost his re-election bid (in part due to re-districting, putting him up against another incumbent). For years, Berman has been a go to guy for the entertainment industry looking to pass dubious copyright expansion bills. Berman used to run the “IP Subcommittee” of the Judiciary Committee — which you would think is a major conflict of interest, since he (literally) represented part of Hollywood. Amusingly, when he moved on to head the Foreign Affairs Committee, the next line for the IP Subcommittee was Rep. Rick Boucher — a noted copyright reform advocate. Magically, the Judiciary Committee made the IP Subcommittee disappear. When Boucher lost in the next election, and a maximalist was available again, magically the subcommittee reappeared.
Either way, as a bunch of sources have been reporting, now that Berman lost, he’s on the short list of possible candidates to become the new Secretary of State after Hillary Clinton steps down early next year. While many had thought that John Kerry would take the position (which he wants), there is now concern that the administration won’t want to take him out of the Senate, because his seat would likely flip to the Republicans (Scott Brown, who narrowly lost to Elizabeth Warren this time around). The other leading candidate, Susan Rice, (the US’s ambassador to the UN) is in a world of controversy right now over the Benghazi situation. That leaves Berman as a top choice (though there are a few others).
However, considering that the State Department is a leading supporter of internet freedom principles. Hillary Clinton made internet freedom a key plank of her focus at the State Department. In fact, we heard from multiple sources that the internal view at the State Department was against SOPA because it would hurt internet freedom efforts abroad. Similarly, we heard that State Department pressure on the White House helped lead to the surprising decision by the administration to come out against SOPA.
While Berman is known for having a strong grasp of foreign affairs issues, his positions on internet freedom and copyright should make it clear that he’s the wrong choice for Secretary of State. While people at State realized how problematic SOPA was, Berman was a co-sponsor of SOPA and continued to defend the bill to the end — arguing that it would have no impact on free speech and insisting that copyright infringement is no different than theft. Berman was also the one who tried to get Hillary Clinton to speak out in favor of SOPA, and then misrepresented that the letter she sent concerning the relationship between copyright and free speech, meant that the State Department supported SOPA (when it did not).
Given all that, Demand Progress is asking people to sign a letter to the White House not to nominate Berman as a replacement for Clinton. It really seems like he is way too beholden to a particular industry to be the appropriate person for the State Department. Let him do what everyone expects, and pick up an entertainment industry lobbying job.