House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has surprised showbizzers by coming out against anti-piracy legislation aimed at rooting out so-called rogue websites that sell illegal copies of movies, TV show and music as well as other goods.
Pelosi’s opposition comes somewhat as a surprise, given that she has strong ties to the entertainment industry, as well as to labor groups that have been pushing for passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act and a companion bill in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act. She is the highest ranking Democrat to express opposition to the legislation, which is pitting many Hollywood interests against those in Silicon Valley, and her reservations put much bigger doubts on whether the bill can pass.
“Leader Pelosi strongly supports protecting intellectual property,” a spokesman, Drew Hamill, said in a statement. “The problem of rogue websites duping consumers is a real one and deserves Congress’ attention. The internet, human rights, and cybersecurity communities have raised concerns that SOPA doesn’t strike the right balance that protects the needs of copyright holders and internet users alike. Tens of thousands of jobs in all the affected industries require us to find an effective solution that all stakeholders can support.”
Writer-director J.J. Abrams hosted a fundraiser for Pelosi on Sept. 27, with Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, Ari Emanuel and Jeffrey Katzenberg among the hosts. Proceeds went to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Earlier on Thursday, in response to a question that Pelosi received on Twitter, she wrote back, “Need to find a better solution than #SOPA #DontBreakTheInternet.”
Tech firms, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as a number of public interest groups have accelerated their lobbying campaign against the bill, which they say is so broad in scope that it could have unintended consequences. They fear legitimate sites will be targeted, even though supporters say that the bill is aimed at sites dedicated to infringing activities.
The legislation has significant bipartisan support, including party leaders of the House and Senate Judicary committees, and supporters have presented the bills as a way to save jobs at a time of a troubled economy. But a critic, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), told The Hill on Wednesday that he doesn’t think that the legislation has “any chance” on the House floor.
“What they’re realizing is there are so many unintended consequences that they can’t just use Google as a piñata and bash on it here,” he said in a break from a House hearing in which a rep from Google was criticized for not doing more to stop online piracy and for placing rogue websites in the top entries of search results.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), told the National Journal on Thursday that he planned to have a markup on the bill by the end of the year.