Increasingly, it looks like the MPAA and the US Chamber of Commerce can't even count on their closest "friends" to support SOPA. The latest surprise is that the Heritage Foundation has come out against SOPA
, warning that it would likely have dangerous unintended consequences. They note both the security concerns as well as the First Amendment concerns:
The requirement that search engines omit links to rogue sites undercuts the role of search firms as trusted intermediaries in conveying information to users. There are, of course, other circumstances where search engines already omit information and links—for instance, Google routinely screens out child pornography from its search results. But there has never been a government mandate that information be withheld from search results. Imposing such a mandate would represent the first step down a classic slippery slope of government interference that has no clear stopping point.
Arguably, the limits placed on search engines as well as other third parties under SOPA would also violate constitutional protections of freedom of speech. But even if not barred legally, any such restrictions should be imposed only after the most careful consideration, only when absolutely necessary, and even then, to the smallest degree possible.
What's really shocking about this is that the Heritage Foundation has a long, long history of being strongly in favor of more draconian copyright law
, and a big supporter of efforts by the RIAA and MPAA to go legal at the drop of a hat over copyright issues:
Unlike some Washington advocacy groups that are predictably anti-copyright, Heritage has historically taken the opposite position. It called the Motion Picture Association of America's decision to sue peer-to-peer pirates a "wise choice," and suggested that disrupting P2P networks to curb piracy, an idea that some politicians actually proposed, is a step "in the right direction."
Ed Meese, Reagan's attorney general who's now a Heritage fellow, seemed to be channelling an MPAA lobbyist when writing in 2005 that "there is no difference between shoplifting a DVD from a store and illegally downloading a copyrighted movie from Kazaa." Heritage's warnings of international "threats to intellectual property rights" date back to at least 1987. And it scores protection of intellectual property rights in its annual Index of Economic Freedom.
To now have the group go the other way is a huge surprise -- and furthers the rapidly growing momentum against SOPA. It had appeared that much (though certainly not all) of the momentum had been on "the left." But, with recent concerns from DC groups that "the right" tends to follow and respect (including CATO, CEI and now Heritage), it seems like plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle may be increasingly skeptical of SOPA. It may have the votes to get out of the House Judiciary Committee, but it may be difficult for it to survive a floor vote.