SOPA Hearing flawed as the bill itself
SOPA Hearing flawed as the bill itself
SOPA Hearing flawed as the bill itself

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    The House
    Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss to the hotly debated H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was flawed
    on so many levels.  Even watching the
    hearing online was flawed, which is ironic because you would think it would be
    easy to obtain a legally accessible, good quality video stream on a hearing
    about online piracy.  Once you were
    finally able to view the hearing, you realized the whole thing was a setup.

    First, the panel
    was unevenly weighted.  Out of six
    witnesses invited to testify, five of them spoke in favor of the SOPA bill.
    Google’s Policy Counsel, Katherine Oyama, was the only witness to speak out
    against the bill.  Absent were the numerous
    consumer advocacy organizations, free speech organizations, human rights
    organizations, prominent Internet engineers, venture capitalists, public
    interest groups, and entrepreneurs who sent letters to the committee opposing
    this bill.  So whereas the proponents of
    the bill had a larger – but shallow – bench that represented various sectors, the
    SOPA opponents only had Google.  That was
    hardly what one would call a fair and balanced debate.  Furthermore, it seemed that several Members
    engaged in the bipartisan game of Lets-All-Beat-Up-On-Google-Today
    during their questioning, rather than actually engaging in serious discussion.

    Second, the
    panel did not have a single cyber security expert despite the serious
    cyber security implications
    in SOPA that could make Internet users more
    vulnerable to hacks, identity theft and cyber attacks.  Given these threats, one would think that the
    Judiciary Committee would include an expert who would address these
    implications or at least try to smooth these issues over for those groups who
    have expressed concern.  This was not the
    case at all.  At one point, Oyama attempted
    to explain how Internet engineers and cyber security experts said this bill would
    harm DNSSEC,
    only to be interrupted by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
    so that he could give his witness, Pfizer’s Chief Security Officer and VP of
    Global Security John Clark, a chance to address the DNS issue.  Unfortunately for Chairman Smith, Clark
    conceded that he did not have any cyber experience. It’s ironic that he was the
    one chosen to testify from the security angle yet he did not have the same
    level of expertise as some of the Internet
    who weren’t allowed to testify before the committee.

    Third, the MPAA
    witness Michael O’Leary inaccurately responded to some of the questions
    regarding Google’s search results.  O’Leary
    encouraged the Members to “go to Google and type in ‘J. Edgar’ and you will get
    a list of page after page of sites that engage in this illegal activity.”  Upon closer inspection, this just is not
    true.  Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) called
    him out on this inaccuracy during the hearing. If O’Leary had exercised just a
    little more due diligence he would have noticed that the search results didn’t
    lead to pirated content, just websites with numerous ads and pop-ups.  One would think that after spending more than
    $91 million in lobbying
    so far, O’Leary’s MPAA bosses, and their friends in
    the music and television industries would get their facts straight, but sadly
    that is not the case.  After the back and
    forth with Lofgren, O’Leary conceded that “there is no silver bullet” when it
    comes to ending online piracy.

    there was bipartisan opposition to this poorly drafted bill.  Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) is working on
    a different bill to better target the online piracy problem.  Rep. Dan Lungren (R-California) has serious
    concerns about the bill’s cyber security implications and expressed disappointment
    that these issues were not raised and that noted cyber security expert, Stewart Baker, was not
    allowed to testify on how this bill would harm Internet security.  Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) shared the
    concerns of one of his constituents, Ryan Turner, a college student who runs
    his own IT business.  Turner wrote, “The
    government hand in DNS servers scares me… Should this pass, I believe my future
    in IT will be crippled.”  This comes from
    someone who is part of the next generation of job creators.

    Overall, the
    hearing was a disappointment to those who believe the Internet should be open,
    uncensored, and secure.  The attorneys
    and staff here at Public Knowledge have written numerous, informative blog posts about SOPA and
    its Senate counterpart S. 968, the Protect
    IP Act
    (PIPA). Check back on the PK blog for future in-depth posts about
    SOPA and where we proceed from here.