The House Judiciary Committee chairman backing a bill that would allow the Justice department to force internet service providers to take down websites committing copyright infringement has leading communications companies bankrolling his campaign.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has seen nearly $393,000 from the TV/music/movies industry during his Congressional career and it ranks fifth among the top industries supporting him. It's legacy companies in that industry — along with other broadcasting and recording industry groups — that would benefit from stricter enforcement of pirated content that could come from Smith's H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Among Smith's top lifetime donors are $33,500 from Time Warner's PAC, more than $45,000 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association PAC and $65,850 from employees at and the PAC of Clear Channel Communications, which is his fourth biggest contributor. (You can see 50 related donations from this election cycle on TransparencyData.com, including several recent donations from the National Association of Broadcasters and the Recording Industry Association of America.)
Various Internet and technology advocates spent last week decrying the bill, introduced in late October by Smith in the House Judiciary Committee, which would give the DOJ authority to make internet service providers take down websites it believes are committing copyright infringement.
Sites the DOJ believes have only limited purpose or use other than infringement, like those that charge for access to livestreamed video that's copyrighted or those that sell counterfeit products, would come down, and the Department could also ask social networks and search engines to block access to them.
The bill is a combination of two Senate bills introduced last May — Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar's S. 978, the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, and Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy's S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act of 2011.
In the turmoil over these bills, which has even included a campaign claiming pop star Justin Bieber could face jail time if one bill went into effect, little has come to light about the money and influence behind them.
Klobuchar, the author of one bill Smith's measure is based on, got a shout out from Bieber after website FreeBieber.org, which was created by nonprofit Fight for the Future, which opposes the bills, launched a campaign claiming the star could face up to five years in prison if it passed. The movement led a confused Bieber on the radio to call for Klobuchar to be locked up as throngs of his fans mourned the thought of Bieber behind bars.
Supporters of the bill have said it isn't aimed at people posting content on YouTube, like Bieber has of his own covers of other artists' songs, but rather at users looking to profit from streaming copyrighted content. Tiffiniy Cheng, cofounder of Fight for the Future, told TPM that commercial infringement isn't well-defined, so someone like Bieber could potentially face trouble because he launched a very successful career that started with posting YouTube videos not intended to be profitable. (Full disclosure: Cheng is a cofounder of Open Congress, a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundaton.)
Klobuchar has seen nearly $300,000 in contributions from the TV/music/movies industry during her Congressional career, including more than $230,000 during this election cycle alone. Recent donations include more than $23,000 from Time Warner and $27,500 from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. (See nearly 200 related contributions here on TransparencyData.com.)
Lobbyists representing the TV/music/movies and copyright industries, like Steve Ricchetti of lobby firm Ricchetti Inc., have shelled out $5,000 to host fundraisers for Klobuchar.
The 12 cosponsors of H.R. 3261, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, have also seen big money from the TV/music/movies industry. At the top of the list are California Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, with $1.6 million from that industry, and Adam Schiff with more than $500,000.