Currently, Congress is debating the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act, two pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening copyrights and undermining piracy. While piracy is illegal and an issue that legislators should be concerned with, SOPA/Protect IP would drastically expand government powers to block access to websites that even link to sites that may be infringing on copyrights and would put sites like YouTube and Google in federal crosshairs. Because of these potential abuses, over a hundred lawyers, law practicioners, and law professors wrote an open letter denouncing these pieces of legislation.
While technology activists have teamed up with search engine and social media companies to battle these laws, a number of companies that deal in digital media are using the funds they’ve amassed from sales to everyday Americans to lobby for these pieces of legislation that would take away consumer internet rights.
For example, gaming behemoth Nintendo spent $10,000 this year to hire a lobbyist Donald Massey to lobby for the Protect IP Act and for giving “Customs and Border Protection authority to seize illegal circumvention devices and disclose information to affected parties about the seized goods,” according to lobbying disclosures. Sony spent tens of thousands of dollars hiring elite lobbyists from firms such as Patton Boggs LLP and Quinn Gillespie & Associates to lobby in favor of Protect IP.
That big companies use the same funds they get from sales to lobby the federal government to take away internet rights from consumers is a reminder of corporate America continues to cast a long shadow on our democracy.