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SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith to SOPA opponents: You don’t matter

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Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chief sponsor of the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA), says that criticisms of the controversial legislation are entirely unfounded, and that the online communities that oppose the bill are illegitimate.

“The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical; none of it is based in reality. Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet. Their accusations are simply not supported by any facts,” said Smith in a statement, quoted by Roll Call.

When asked about the burgeoning opposition to the bill from online communities like Reddit.com, Smith added: “It’s a vocal minority. Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded.”

There are so many things just factually wrong about Rep. Smith’s statement that it’s hard to know where to begin. So let’s just take his asinine dismissal from the top, shall we?

First, Rep. Smith says that “not one of the critics” could point to specific language in the bill that would “in any way harm the Internet.” No? What about the 83 Internet pioneers — we’re talking people like Vint Cerf, co-designer of TCP/IP; Jim Gettys, editor of the HTTP/1.1 protocol standards; Leonard Kleinrock, a key developer of the ARPANET; in other words, the very people who built the Internet — who say that SOPA (and the Protect IP Act, PIPA), “will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS) and have other capricious technical consequences” because of the bills’ requirement that Internet service providers block domain names of infringing sites.

In their letter to Congress, this group of Internet founders also argues that SOPA “will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure.” If that’s not damaging to the Internet, what is it? To Rep. Smith, it’s nothing, apparently. Hyperbole.

Rep. Smith’s own hyperbole goes against the opinion of former Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Stewart Baker, who agrees with the Internet founders when he says that SOPA will “do great damage to Internet security, mainly by putting obstacles in the way of DNSSEC, a protocol designed to limit certain kinds of Internet crime,” among other repercussions.

Now, in terms of Rep. Smith’s statement that the anti-SOPA crowd is neither “legitimate” nor “large in number,” well, that’s so obviously false, it would be laughable if it weren’t so infuriating.

As we have mentioned before, the list of vocal SOPA opponents includes more than 850 companies, organizations and individual experts who are adamantly against the legislation’s passage — far more than appear on the House Judiciary Committee’s list (pdf) of SOPA supporters. This includes the Internet’s largest companies: Google, AOL, Facebook, eBay, LinkedIn, Mozilla, PayPal, Wikipedia, Twitter, and Tumblr (to name only a few).

The list of SOPA opponents also includes 425 venture capitalists and entrepreneurs — i.e. job creators. The editorial boards of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are on the list, as are 39 public advocacy groups, nonprofits and think tanks who believe that SOPA will stifle freedom of speech. These are joined by 61 international human rights groups, and 116 academics and law experts from the nation’s top law schools. In short: The list of SOPA critics could not be any more legitimate.

In addition to these industry, human rights, and law experts, the anti-SOPA faction includes countless individuals — voters, as they’re called in Washington, who have sent hundreds of thousands of letters to Congress, and made nearly 90,000 calls in one day to their representatives, as Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick reports, urging them to denounce SOPA.

For the sake of brevity, we won’t go into detail about Reddit’s apparently successful GoDaddy boycott over the company’s SOPA support, or the countless other less-public actions concerned citizens are taking to fight this bill. But it’s important for those of you on the sidelines to know that when Rep. Smith questions the legitimacy of those who oppose SOPA, he’s questioning the legitimacy of the American people, and damaging the democratic principles upon which this country relies.

Correction: ARPANET was originally misspelled as ARAPANET.

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