White House advisers wade in against SOPA

The US White House has indicated that it is not happy with the way SOPA is framed and looks like it might veto it, unless some serious changes are made.

The news will be surprising as Vice President Joe Biden has been a long time sock-puppet, er, champion for the film and music industry. We guess he had a day off and common sense made a rare appearance in the Oval Office.

True, the news hasn’t come from  Obama, but from three advisers who, according to Reuters, posted their comments in a blog.

They said that the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and other bills could make businesses on the internet vulnerable to litigation and harm legal activity and free speech.

White House cyber-security czar Howard Schmidt wrote that any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit business innovation.

SOPA forces companies to block access to foreign websites which have been identified by Big Content as violating US copyright laws. US advertising networks could also be required to stop online ads and search engines would be barred from directly linking to websites found to be distributing pirated goods.

Google has said that the bill goes too far and could hurt investment. It has run advertisements in major newspapers urging Washington lawmakers to rethink their approach.

But SOPA fans, such as Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House judiciary committee, said forcing other countries to adopt US laws was not censorship.

He quoted some figures which Big Content made up for him which said that intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying US jobs and account for more than 60 percent of American exports.

Schmidt and the other advisers said the Obama administration was ready to work with lawmakers on a narrower, more targeted approach to online piracy to ensure that legitimate businesses – including start-up firms – would not be harmed.

Obama may have worked out that SOPA will probably lose him a lot of votes if he is seen to support it. There is a movement in the US against business control of government which you might have heard of, and while it has not yet made a tremendous impact, it would be a very brave politician who identified themselves as the protectors of corporations over individual freedoms. Then again, this is the man who signed through the NDAA.