Do any real people support SOPA?

By Felix Salmon
December 15, 2011

Very few of us live in a world remotely representative of the nation as a whole; I certainly don’t. How many of my friends and acquaintances have a college degree? How many live in dense urban centers? How many have smartphones? How many have ever voted Republican? In all these respects and many more, the world I see is incredibly skewed. But what about the Stop Online Piracy Act?

I spent last night with a fascinating group of Silicon Valley geeks, talking Bitcoin; among them was Dan Kaminsky, who’s spending most of his time these days lobbying hard against SOPA. And it occurred to me, as we talked very briefly about how the lobbying effort was going, how very lopsided my view of SOPA is.

Everybody I know, and everything I’ve come across on the internet, falls into one of two categories: either they’re vehemently opposed to SOPA, or else they simply don’t know about it. Racking my brain for any counterexamples, the only one I can come up with is a pre-roll ad which I’ve seen before a couple of my videos here on Reuters.com, which complains about pharmaceutical counterfeiting.

In one sense, this is entirely natural: I’m a journalist, and journalists by their nature hate anything which smacks of censorship. On the other hand, I’m also a media professional, and the pro-SOPA lobby is led by media companies of various descriptions. I just don’t know anybody who’s part of it.

Yet the bill is very much alive, and it seems that if a bill makes it to Barack Obama’s desk, he’ll sign it.

Today, in his big NYT piece about the war being fought in Washington, Edward Wyatt is careful to be symmetrical in his descriptions, and talks about how “the howls of protest” against SOPA “have been loud and lavishly financed” by Silicon Valley — it’s one of those articles based on the idea of explaining that there’s a disagreement, without bothering to try to adjudicate whether one side makes vastly more sense than the other.

You don’t need me to tell you that SOPA is an incredibly bad idea — others can do so much, much better than I can. But here’s where I have a genuine question. I know that the MPAA and the RIAA are lobbying hard for SOPA. (As well as, oddly, the AFL-CIO.) They seem to have a lot of politicians on their side. I can also point to an almost unlimited list of people and organizations who are lobbying equally hard against it — although it’s harder to find die-hard opponents of the bill in Congress.

But does SOPA actually have any popular support? Are there any real outside-the-beltway people who think it’s a good idea? If so, where are they? And if not, how did Congress become so bad at reflecting popular opinion?

I guess what I’m asking here is whether the strength of support for SOPA in Washington is an example of the failure of democracy, or whether it’s just another case of a bitterly divided country. I suspect it’s the former, but I really would be interested in finding out about anybody who doesn’t share my views on this subject.

Update: I’m told that Creative America is a grassroots organization of real people who support SOPA. I’m not entirely sure I believe it, though.

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