WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on legislation next week that is aimed at curbing online piracy, but critics say that it is overly broad and could lead to censorship of legitimate online speech. And according to a MapLight, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics, entertainment interest groups that support the proposed legislation have donated more than 7 times as much to Senate members as internet interest groups that oppose the bill.
On a recent episode of “Meet the Press,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threw his support behind advancing legislation to curb online piracy. Both chambers of Congress have drafted legislation to address online piracy from foreign websites, but both bills have faced strong public outcry that has put their chances of passage in doubt without significant changes.
The Senate is considering the Protect IP Act (S. 968), known as PIPA, while the House is considering the Stop Online Piracy Act ( HR 3261), known as SOPA. The Senate is expected to vote on PIPA on Jan. 24, and Reid has indicated there could be significant changes that would make the bill a “winner for everyone, not just for the content people.”
MapLight has conducted an analysis of campaign contributions from key industry groups to members of the U.S. Senate (July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2011) and found that:
Entertainment interest groups that support these bills gave 7.2 times as much ($14,423,991) to members of the U.S. Senate as Internet interest groups that oppose these bills ($2,011,332).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has received 4.8 times as much from entertainment interest groups that support these bills ($571,500) as from Internet interest groups that oppose these bills ($118,050).
Opponents of these two bills, such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, eBay, and Twitter, fear the measures as currently drafted will grant the U.S. government power to curb free speech online and, with it, snare otherwise innocuous third-party sites. The bills’ supporters, such as Disney, Time Warner, Comcast, CBS, and the Recording Industry Association of America, hope to be able to use the expanded authority to shut down websites trafficking in pirated content. Drafting language that appeases both sides has been difficult and may result in Congress’s choosing one side over the other.
METHODOLOGY: Includes reported contributions to congressional campaigns of senators in office during the 112th U.S. Congress, from Cable & satellite TV production & distribution, Motion Picture production & distribution, Entertainment Industry/Broadcast & Motion Pictures, Commercial TV & radio stations, Recorded Music & music production, TV production & distribution, and Online computer services interest groups selected by MapLight, July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2011. Contributions data source: OpenSecrets.org.
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