Politics make strange bedfellows, the old saw goes. And it doesn’t get any stranger than Internet companies such as Google and Facebook, which liberals dominate, joining with the tea party on policy issues. But that’s what’s happening on a copyright bill, The Hill
The Stop Online Piracy Act would force search engines and online advertising networks to eliminate connections with web sites illegally providing content, such as movies and music.
The bill certainly has some heft behind it, with Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sponsoring it. And the entertainment industry, the Chamber of Commerce, and unions (the last two being strange bedfellows themselves) support the proposal.
But Internet companies and the tea party oppose the bill. The Internet companies, of course, don’t want to see their freedom curbed. And tea partyers appear to be their strongest cohorts on the issue.
Tea party groups don’t like the idea of government intervention on the Internet themselves. And they oppose the idea of regulating perhaps the economy’s strongest sector. The Tea Party Patriots organization has worked with liberal groups and free-speech advocates to spike the legislation.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, abandoned some of his Republican colleagues, expressing concern about the bill’s “overly broad language.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., declined comment to The Hill on the issue now, but last month, before the bill’s introduction, she voiced “serious concerns about government getting involved in regulation of the Internet.”
Veteran members of Congress from both parties support the bill, but many freshmen Republicans oppose it because they came to Congress vowing to fight regulation.
Debate over the bill also highlights the conflict between young tech companies and their older, non-tech brethren. Indeed, Google reportedly is considering a departure from the Chamber of Commerce.
As for Congress, The issue has made allies even out of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who disagree on almost everything. The two wrote a letter to other House members explaining their opposition to the bill.
“Online innovation and commerce were responsible for 15 percent of U.S. GDP growth from 2004 to 2009, according to the McKinsey Global Institute,” the duo states. “Before we impose a sprawling new regulatory regime on the Internet, we must carefully consider the risks that it could pose for this vital engine of our economy.”
In another play against form, Issa, who has built a reputation as an intense partisan, may end up negotiating a compromise between the two sides. He seeks narrowly focused legislation that doesn’t “ensnare” legitimate websites, a lobbyist told The Hill. “I think [Issa] will try to make everyone happy on this,” the lobbyist said.
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