Rupert Murdoch takes to new media to slam new media, defend SOPA
Angry that President Obama indicated this weekend he would not sign the SOPA/ PIPA bills as they currently stand in the House and Senate, Murdoch took to Twitter to defend the bills and the old media companies who are backing them. He said that new media companies like Google “threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.”
Clearly, however, “all software creators” are not aligned with Murdoch in support of SOPA. In fact a coalition of some of the most important software makers in the world are aligned against SOPA, saying the bills would threaten free speech and the very fabric of the internet, as well as important legal precedents like due process.
At the heart of Obama’s criticism of SOPA this weekend was the provision that would allow media companies, in association with the DOJ, to swiftly block access to sites via Domain Name System (DNS) blocking. Allowing this would tamper with a critical piece of the internet’s underlying architecture.
In fact, after Obama’s statement this weekend, SOPA’s author Lamar Smith relented on the issue, saying “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the [House Judiciary] Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision.”
But Obama’s own trepidation on this one issue was enough for Murdoch to launch into a tirade against him and a new media landscape hell-bent on siphoning profits from traditional content creators: “Piracy leader is Google,” he tweeted “who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.”
Actually Murdoch’s argument here was a rhetorical device used effectively by conservatives on a host of issues, namely abortion rights. By framing the issue as a binary “pro-piracy” or “anti-piracy” split, Murdoch oversimplifies it and eliminates the possibility that a company may be anti-piracy but also concerned about preserving free speech and free access on the internet.
Google actually responded to charges that it’s a “piracy leader” in an email to CNET:
“This is just nonsense. Last year we took down 5 million infringing Web pages from our search results and invested more than $60 million in the fight against bad ads…We fight pirates and counterfeiters every day. We believe, like many other tech companies, that the best way to stop [pirates] is through targeted legislation that would require ad networks and payment processors–like ours–to cut off sites dedicated to piracy or counterfeiting,” rather than through DNS blocking, the company wrote.
Traditional movie and music companies seem to be losing the battle on SOPA/PIPA as Lamar Smith’s statement on SOPA today follows PIPA’s co-author, saying he was having second thoughts about some provisions on Friday after a massive outpouring of protests and petitions from internet companies and users. That didn’t stop Murdoch from trying to spin the story in his favor though. He tweeted this weekend: “Seems like universal anger with [Obama] from all sorts of normal supporters. Maybe backing pirates a rare miscalculation by friend Axelrod.” Right. It’s unclear who “all sorts of normal supporters” are—whoever they are, they’re definitely not speaking up loudly enough to save SOPA — but isn’t that kind of fabrication exactly what we’d expect from the man behind Fox News?