Congressional Staffers Still Can't Come To Terms With What Happened Over SOPA

from the time-to-learn dept

In a short article about a panel of Congressional staffers at the NCTA show, they basically admitted that any new "anti-piracy" legislation may be tough to pass -- with one staffer saying that the SOPA protests "poisoned the well." However, perhaps more interesting were the comments from Stephanie Moore, the "Democrat's chief counsel on the House Judiciary Committee" who apparently still refuses to believe that the public actually spoke out against the bill of their own free will:
“What happened was a misinformation campaign,” said Moore. “People were basically misled into contacting Congressmen with claims that were extraordinary. There was some genuine concern, but as for it being a genuine home grown grassroots up-from-the-streets opposition, I beg to differ on that.”
I always find this line of reasoning quite extraordinary. If you look at the history of copyright law -- especially over the past 40 years or so, it's been one "misinformation campaign" after another by RIAA and MPAA lobbyists. As we've discussed, Congress has bent over backwards to pass 15 anti-piracy laws in the last 30 years -- each one pushed by industry lobbying about how they would collapse and die without the laws being passed, and how no one will create content without such laws. They've been wrong every single time. So even if it was a misinformation campaign on the other side, at best all it would do is even out the playing field. Besides, looking at the arguments in favor of SOPA and PIPA, they were so full of blatant misinformation that I don't think any amount of misinformation against the bills would have even out the score.

But, to be clear, since I was pretty closely involved in the effort to stop these dangerous bills, I can say first hand that the claim that this was a "misinformation campaign" and that it wasn't about an "up-from-the-streets opposition" are hogwash by a person speaking from ignorance, anger or jealousy over having their own pet bill blocked. The folks working against the bill worked pretty damn hard to paint a clear and accurate picture of the bill. While there were various people who helped shepherd the process along, the protests didn't take on any life until various communities of people took them over and ran with them -- starting with the users on Tumblr and Reddit (followed closely by those on Wikipedia).

Of course, when you have any large group of internet users, not all of them are going to understand the nuances or the details. So, certainly some misinformation got into the discussion. To be fair, though, the largest bit of "misinformation" I saw on the anti-SOPA side was from people who didn't realize that (under serious public pressure), Lamar Smith issued a manager's amendment to take out the worst of the worst of SOPA (still leaving in plenty of bad). Some people mistakenly referred to the impact of the original bill in protesting later versions. This was, indeed, a mistake, but hardly a result of "misinformation." After all, those issues were in the original bill and were clearly part of what the House Judiciary Committee's staff was going for when it scribbled down the bill as the MPAA dictated it crafted the bill.

What I do know is that when misleading suggestions were made on the anti-SOPA email list, knowledgeable people quickly pushed back against those claims, noting that they were not true and should not be used. I did not see that on the other side. When the bogus claims of the entertainment industry were widely debunked, the supporters of SOPA kept on quoting them (and still do, to this day).

So, I'm sorry, but the idea that the defeat of SOPA was a misinformation campaign and not a grassroots effort is pure bunk. And if Moore wants to avoid a repeat, rather than lashing out mistakenly, and misunderstanding what happened, she should perhaps spend some time actually learning about why people were so upset by SOPA. But, of course, we know that won't happen.

Filed Under: anti-piracy, house judiciary committee, mpaa, ncta, sopa, stephanie moore


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2012 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Other people have responded to this, but I might as well do so as well, since the misinformation here is coming from you:

    "It'll break the Internet";

    The claim was that it would break important security standards, something that eventually even supporters of the bill admitted (after denying it early on).

    There were also reasonable concerns that it would be a break from how the internet had successfully worked in the past.

    No one said that it would make the internet stop working entirely, but that it would "break" certain elements. That was true, not misinformation.


    The was no such nuance in the many inflammatory messages to your base. And there was no disavowing of that claim when DNS blocking was removed from the bill. It was simple bumper sticker politics and it was used from start to finish for the express purpose of inflaming people, knowing (like most of the electorate) they'd look no further than the lie itself.


    "They'll put Justin Bieber in prison";

    No, what was said was that what Bieber had done (singing others' songs and putting them online via YouTube and embedding them on his own site), would violate parts of the new law, and would likely prevent future Justin Biebers from doing similar things. The details on this were laid out in great detail, even with support from a Harvard law professor who explained how bizarre the wording of the law was.

    What are you talking about? I still have a screen shot of the ad with Bieber in the prison cell. I'm pretty sure it was compliments of your friends at Fight For The Future. Good job getting the pre-pubescent set involved.

    "SOPA will shut down YouTube"

    Actually folks were pretty clear that YouTube would survive because people wouldn't attack it since it's so large. But, the next YouTube would be in serious trouble.

    Funny, that's what a number of piracy apologist groups claimed. Hell, even lobbyists were doing it for awhile until it was embarrassingly pointed out that the bill was limited to foreign sites.

    And that's easy to see. Hell, we already saw how Veoh got shutdown under existing DMCA regs, even though the site was found perfectly legal. Under the original version of SOPA, Veoh would have been in even more trouble because it wouldn't have even been able to stay up while it fought the lawsuit, but would have been shut down completely upon notice.

    I'm not that familiar with the case, but they were based in California so they weren't subject to SOPA. The only thing I know is that they had two lawsuits filed against them, and both times they received a summary judgment in their favor. Apparently the CEO, Dmitry Shapiro has a somewhat broader take on their bankruptcy saying:

    "the distraction of the legal battles, and the challenges of the broader macro-economic climate have led to our Chapter 7 bankruptcy."

    In addition to free speech, we have the right to redress in courts. I know you may not like that, but it too is part of package of rights enjoyed by all Americans. Besides, given the economy falling into recession in 2008, the year 2010 was a banner year for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I'd suggest that was a more compelling reason than two dismissed court cases some years before.

    So, no, none of that was misinformation. The misinformation is from folks like yourself pretending those statements said things they did not.

    I stand by what I said.

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