Texas Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, one of the co-sponsors of the highly controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has lashed out at opposition to the copyright bill by labelling those opposing it as liars, and also says Google's opposition is "self-serving".
Smith rejected claims by consumer and rights groups, law professors and the legal counsels of large tech companies that SOPA, and it's Senate cousin PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), would harm free speech on the Internet, as both acts would allow the government and Attorney General to blacklist websites, while giving private corporations wide ranging powers too to take down websites they deem "unacceptable".
Smith called these suggestions "blatantly false", which appears to accuse those espousing these views as liars.
Smith also attacked claims that the law would put websites like Facebook or YouTube in jeopardy, as failure to remove a small percentage of infringing content could allow the US government to seize the entire domain. Smith said that these websites would not be considered to be "dedicated" to piracy or "facilitating" the distribution of illegal content, and so would not fall under the harsher punishments allowed under the law. YouTube was sued by Viacom in a billion dollar lawsuit for facilitating the distribution of illegal content, with Viacom claiming that in YouTube's early days, the website was very much "dedicated" to hosting pirated content. Critics fear that SOPA, while it may not affect established websites like YouTube, could kill innovation, as YouTube, in its early days, would definitely have been a prime target for a SOPA seizure.
Smith also controversially compared online piracy to child pornography. "Like online piracy, child pornography is a billion-dollar business operated online. It is also illegal. That's why law enforcement officials are authorized to block access to child-porn sites," Smith stated in an article posted to National Review Online.
Smith also attack Google, and other tech companies that oppose SOPA, for being self-serving. Smith accused Google of actively promoting "rogue foreign pharmacies that sold counterfeit and illegal drugs to U.S. patients". Smith recently proposed a law that would make it illegal for people to discuss, talk or even email about buying cheaper restricted prescription drugs from overseas, a proposal supported by "Big Pharma", who have frequently made campaign donations to Smith.
Rep. Smith's ties with digital copyright law extends back to in 2006 when he suggested an expansion of the DMCA that would give police and law enforcement more powers to wire tap individuals in copyright cases, and to expand civil asset forfeiture for any equipment used for copyright infringement.
But Smith's valiant defence of SOPA may be futile, as a group of lawmakers are already proposing an alternative that would limit the US government's role in stopping foreign websites suspected of copyright infringement to sending cease-and-desist letters, and would made proceedings public to ensure a transparent process.