The People Trying To Ruin The Internet: Bob Goodlatte


At the Voice, we have been regularly following internet policy developments. We figured it would be cool — maybe even a public service? — to ID people who keep pushing for web-killing proposals such as SOPA and PIPA in this new, occasional feature: “The People Trying To Ruin The Internet.” Enjoy!

G.O.P. Rep. Bob Goodlatte has represented Virginia in Congress since 1993. His recent support of the Stop Internet Piracy Act has gotten flack from all political parties, including many libertarian-leaning Republicans, who now want to unseat him largely because of his intellectual property policies.

Here’s his history: Goodlatte not only introduced SOPA along with Lamar Smith — he co-authored the thing!

He argued that it modernized “our criminal and civil statutes to meet new intellectual property enforcement challenges and protects American jobs.”

Also: “It is tempting to think of crimes involving counterfeiting and piracy, or intellectual property (IP) theft, as victimless, but this is simply untrue…Counterfeit car brakes and infant formula that are found on rogue websites can kill innocent and unknowing consumers. These rogue sites often appear to be the real website but in actuality they sell pirated goods.”

From 2008 to 2010, Goodlatte got almost $120,000 in donations from the computer/internet industries, and around $90,00 from the TV/music/movie lobby, according to ProPublica. During his overall career, though, he’s gotten some $316,686 from these concerns, Techdirt details.

Goodlatte doesn’t seem to have contacted his own constituents about SOPA — even those directly involved in tech.

“The idea behind it [SOPA] is good, but the issue is I don’t think Congress is really consulting a lot of the entities and organizations this would affect the most,” one Blacksburg, Virginia-based entrepreneur told the Roanoke Times:

“Part of the reason people are upset is it’s too broad-based…there’s been a shift toward focusing on content for websites — everything such as videos and other interactive applets to actual textual wording. So I don’t see it affecting us immediately, but from our perspective, it could be open to so much interpretation, it could stifle how we create or deliver content.”

Another web-based business owner told the paper: “I’m not a lawyer, but it is my understanding that while the intent of the law is to go after foreign counterfeiters or people outright stealing or misusing copyrighted material, the law is written so broadly that the federal government could literally shut down any website they chose to…that’s the problem with a poorly written law: It doesn’t matter what the intent is if it’s poorly written.”

That same businessman writes a blog that’s on his company’s ebsite. He told reporters that if SOPA became law, he would feel pressured to shut it down, “on the off chance that an accusation over something he posts could lead to the Justice Department taking down his entire business.”

During the 12-hour “marathon” SOPA amendment markup in December, Goodlatte reportedly: “kept rejecting amendments because he feared that the amendment could be abused. The fact that most of those amendments were to prevent the much wider scale abuses guaranteed under SOPA never seemed to occur to him.”

Though SOPA did not Washington, Goodlatte had used the proposed law as a major talking point — and so are his opponents.

Karen Kwiatkowski, who wants to wrest the Republican nomination from Goodlatte in the Virginia Republican party’s upcoming primary, has said that the incumbent’s position would vastly expand government. This has gotten the attention of the Commonwealth’s conservative community — especially Ron Paul supporters. They’re backing her, claiming that Goodlatte’s approach to the web would threaten the Bill of Rights.

His office didn’t respond to multiple Voice requests for comment.