Anti-piracy legislation has traditionally been one of the few areas of genuinely bi-partisan action on Capitol Hill. Insofar as the issue was controversial, the conflicts were either generational (see: “series of tubes”) or regional (Northern vs. Southern California). SOPA, after all, was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a deeply conservative Republican from a very red district. PIPA, on the other hand, was drafted by Sen. Patrick Leahy, the liberal senator from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the wake of The Great Blackout, however, there are signs of increasingly partisanship on the issue. During the Republican primary debate last night, the candidates were asked (via Twitter) about SOPA and three of the four denounced it in unusually partisan terms. Newt Gingrich blamed it on “Hollywood liberals” (no doubt news to Lamar Smith), Ron Paul called it big government and Mitt Romney said he opposed it because “I’m standing for freedom,” whatever that meant. Only Rick Santorum expressed support for “the goals” of SOPA and PIPA, if not for the bills themselves. Meanwhile, as the Wall Street Journal points out this morning, most of the remaining supporters of SOPA are now Democrats.
New laws such as the Stop Online Piracy Act threaten to give new powers to Congress and to content companies, and have serious implications for the web — they make it clear that content companies are in many ways fundamentally opposed to the way the internet works.