The head of the influential U.S. Copyright Office plans to offer an unqualified endorsement tomorrow of a controversial Hollywood-backed copyright bill.
Maria Pallante will tell a congressional committee that the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is "essential" to thwarting online piracy.
A copy of Pallante's testimony obtained by CNET describes SOPA as "the next step in ensuring that our law keeps pace with infringers." (Part of her job is to provide advice to Congress on copyright law.)
"It is my view that if Congress does not continue to provide serious responses to online piracy, the U.S. copyright system will ultimately fail," Pallante's testimony says.
Pallante and representatives from Pfizer, the Motion Picture Association of America, the AFL-CIO, and Mastercard, all of whom support the bill, will be testifying tomorrow before the House Judiciary committee.
The only dissenting witness will be Katherine Oyama, a policy counsel at Google. A long list of companies, nonprofit groups, law professors, and other organizations buttressed Google's arguments today in a flurry of letters to Capitol Hill that raised concerns about SOPA and the speed it was moving through the House.
SOPA, which was introduced last month in the House to the applause of lobbyists for Hollywood and other large content holders, is designed to make allegedly copyright-infringing Web sites, sometimes called "rogue" Web sites, virtually disappear from the Internet.
A announcement of tomorrow's hearing leaves little doubt about where House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, stands. It says that SOPA reflects a bipartisan "commitment toward ensuring that law enforcement and job creators have the necessary tools to protect American intellectual property from counterfeiting and piracy."
Not only Smith is the SOPA's primary House sponsor, but opponents are outgunned in both congressional chambers. SOPA's backers include the Republican or Democratic heads of all the relevant House and Senate committees, and groups as varied as the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO have embraced it on the theory that it will protect and create U.S. jobs.
Marybeth Peters, the previous head of the Copyright Office who retired at the end of last year, tended to offer a more balanced assessment of proposed copyright legislation. In 2004, for instance, Peters said that her job was to strike "the appropriate balance between the rights of copyright owners and the needs of users of copyrighted works."
Pallante's endorsement of SOPA is nothing if not enthusiastic. Some excerpts:
The response provided by SOPA is serious and comprehensive. It requires all key members of the online ecosystem, including service providers, search engines, payment processors, and advertising networks, to play a role in protecting copyright interests -- an approach I endorse... In my view, such tools are essential to stopping the economic devastation caused by rogue websites...
There will be times when blocking access to websites may be the only quick and effective course of action and that providing this tool to the Attorney General is therefore a critical part of the equation. Likewise, I believe that search engines should be fully within the reach of the Attorney General and should be ordered in appropriate circumstances to dismantle direct hyperlinks that send unwitting consumers to rogue websites.
"It's an unbalanced statement and it's extremely disappointing," says Markham Erickson, executive director of NetCoalition, which counts Amazon.com, eBay, Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia as members.