Google Front & Center at SOPA Piracy Hearing

You'd think Google wouldn't want to antagonize another branch of the federal government. But yesterday Google led the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) being discussed at the House Judiciary Committee.

"Right from the start, the knives were out for Google. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) made it only halfway through his opening statement before asserting that 'one of the companies represented here today has sought to obstruct the Committee's consideration of bipartisan legislation. Perhaps this should come as no surprise given that Google just settled a federal criminal investigation into the company's active promotion of rogue websites that pushed illegal prescription and counterfeit drugs on American consumers'," Ars Technica reported.

If passed, SOPA would make search engines and hosting services block "rogue websites" on a judge's order. Google has been joined by the ACLU, foreign civil rights groups, eBay, the Consumer Electronics Association, and hundreds of legal professionals. The group is not pro-piracy but believe the act is too extreme and contradicts existing "safe harbor" legislation.

“The solutions are draconian," Google Executive Chairman said Tuesday at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "There’s a bill that would require ISPs to remove URLs from the Web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked.

"Their business models are threatened by theft," Schmidt said later. "We don't endorse it. Please don't do it. If you're doing it, stop. I hope that's very clear."

Google, along with Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, and AOL, voiced their opposition to the bill in a joint letter to lawmakers, saying "these measures pose a serious risk to our industry's continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation's cybersecurity."

Yesterday, "Don't Let Hollywood Ruin the Net" ads by open Internet group Public Knowledge were shown in Google's search results, ClickZ reported.

As Ars Technica noted "in the Senate, people like Ron Wyden (D-OR) watched the 'not entirely fair and balanced' hearing with horror. Wyden, who helped author the key Internet safe harbors that have keep sites like Google, Yahoo, and eBay from being sued out of oblivion for the actions of others, submitted a statement of his own. 'We took the opportunity to pass a law that said that neutral parties on the net are not liable for the actions of bad actors,' he wrote. 'So now, as we again debate Web censorship, let's ask ourselves: what next generation of innovations won't be realized if we backtrack on that principal now? Yes, the Internet needs reasonable laws and bad actors need to be pursued, but the freedoms of billions of individual Internet users should not be sacrificed in the interest of easing that pursuit.'"

Wyden has become the savior of the Internet, having derailed other legislation - Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) last year and PROTECT IP earlier this year.

"There is not enough attention being given to this legislative push over the past few years and its possible impact on the web. True, artists and right holders deserve to have their intellectual property protected, but not with laws that can be easily applied beyond their protection."

I wrote that earlier this year. Seems most of our legislators still haven't gotten the message.


Infographic courtesy of

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.