Internet on Edge
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|Viveca Novak||January 27th 2012|
Likewise, the number of clients represented by lobbyists who worked on the issues of intellectual property enforcement and online piracy -- the ones central to the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House (H.R.3261) and its Senate companion, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (S.968) -- increased by more than 100 percent, to 154, the Center found. The third-quarter figure was 72.
And, in remarkable harmony, the number of lobbyists hired by companies and other groups that lobbied on the bills also just more than doubled, from 462 to 956.
It's impossible to say how much of the money spent on lobbying was directly connected to SOPA and PIPA, since the reporting forms don't require that level of detail.
However, it seems clear that the legislation, which was introduced in the Senate last May and in the House in October and is meant to address the problem of piracy on foreign websites, was responsible for much of the surge in fourth-quarter lobbying on these issues.
The bills had the early, overwhelming support of content providers such as the movie and recording industries, which had long pushed for such legislation, as well as a majority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Late in 2011, however, companies such as Google that would have been required by the measure to remove links to websites suspected of pirating, as well as other critics worried about First Amendment threats, began to make their case more vigorously.
In the last part of the year, lobbying was fast and furious on both sides. The computer and Internet industry fielded 246 lobbyists to advocate on all of its issues, according to the reports filed, though SOPA and PIPA were the most important active pieces of legislation for most of its members. In opposition was the TV, music and movie industry, with 241 lobbyists. (Other industries with concerns about the issues were served by much smaller contingents).
Google more than doubled its lobbying spending in 2011 to $11.4 million, including $4.2 million during the fourth quarter. The Wikimedia Foundation, parent of Wikipedia, registered to lobby for the first time ever, though it spent a minimal $10,000.
Among the more notable names involved in this lobbying brawl: the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, General Electric, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Comcast, the National Association of Broadcasters, General Motors, the Motion Picture Association of America, Verizon, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center.
It's unclear how much impact all the lobbying had, despite the millions spent..
But the bills came to a standstill after more direct action by Internet companies earlier this month. Wikipedia's English version went black for a day, Google draped a funereal banner over its name on the nation's most popular search page, petition drives collected millions of signatures, and other actions caused a grassroots outpouring of opposition.
Now, even co-sponsors of the bills have backed away.
Center for Responsive Politics lobbying researcher Sarah Bryner contributed to this report. This article appeared on the CRP's OpenSecrets.org site