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The New SOPA Will Be the Old SOPA (or some variant thereof)

February 1, 2012 , ,

There’s been a sort of giddy euphoria among the netroots recently, with a major win against harmful copyright legislation in the forms of PIPA and SOPA. And there’s a lot of discussion about what to do with this newly-emergent energy and focus. Some are turning to the IP provisions of the Trans Pacific Partnership, or the role of the US is pushing stringent copyright protection through the Special 301 process. Others are focusing on the Research Works Act, which threatens to overturn research funding policies that ensure that the results of taxpayer-funded research stay accessible to taxpayers. And through it all, there’s the messaging question: What’s the next SOPA?

Maybe I’m being too literal here, but to my thinking, the next SOPA is the old SOPA. As the Hill reports, the RIAA isn’t letting up in slamming the OPEN Act, a compromise proposal raised by PIPA and SOPA opponents in Congress that adopts a number of measures from the two failed bills and attempts to reach a middle ground.

But why the vehemence in their opposition? It’s understandable that OPEN isn’t everything the studios and record labels could ask for—but then, it should be massively clear that “everything they could ask for” isn’t feasible technically, practically, or politically. The OPEN Act was introduced by legislators already on the defensive, when they didn’t have the might of millions of angry Internet users on their side. It would seem that a tweak here or there could get it to a place the content industries might like, given its strong family resemblance.

But if they’re actively attacking it instead of trying to fix it, it certainly seems that they have their own plans for the next piece of legislation. And that certainly won’t be a proposal to shorten copyright terms or allow access to orphan works. No, if OPEN is something they feel the need to drag through the mud, then it means their next step is to take SOPA, lather, rinse, and repeat. This may not happen for some months, but the way things seem to be going, the “new SOPA” won’t be any of a dozen other imminent, eminent issues, but the same as the old SOPA. In the meantime, there’s lots of work to be done, but it’s worth remembering that what’s past is never dead; it’s not even past.