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Thursday, 17 November 2011 10:33

Big Content stacks Senate committee

Written by Nick Farell



Calls Google a pirate


The US government continues to show how much it is in the pockets of big corporates with its latest Anti-Pirate bill. For those who came in late, this law is the one which will lock up any one who hums a tune online without paying the record companies shedloads of dosh.

US Senators have done their level best to give Big Content the law it wants to basically lock up citizens who might think of piracy or file sharing without having to worry about that pesky thing called constitution. The House Judiciary Committee today held an important hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act but only those witnesses who would not object to the law being invited. This was designed to give the impression that all the witnesses were in favour of the law.

Off the list of witnesses were dozens of foreign civil rights groups, tech giants like eBay, the Consumer Electronics Association, China scholarRebecca MacKinnon, hundreds of law professors and lawyers who had all said the law was terrible. So senators heard quotes like "the First Amendment does not protect stealing goods off trucks" which was made by Big Content pin-up Paul Almeida. Ironically the First Amendment was designed by smugglers so it probably does protect the transportation of illegal goods.

But the target of the attacks were the content industry's public enemy number one, Google. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) commented that Google just settled a federal criminal investigation into the company’s active promotion of rogue websites that pushed illegal prescription and counterfeit drugs on American consumers. He said that Google didn't want to stop piracy because it made so much money from it. Ouch.

The Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro said outside the meeting that the bill attempts a radical restructuring of the laws governing the Internet. It would undo the legal safe harbours that have allowed a world-leading Internet industry to flourish over the last decade. It would also expose legitimate American businesses and innovators to broad and open-ended liability. The result will be more lawsuits, decreased venture capital investment, and fewer new jobs.
Fortunately what ever stunt the senators try to pull, President Obama has told them that the law is so bad that it will be vetoed.

Nick Farell

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