'Internet is for Porn' pops up during House SOPA debate

Thanks to Rep. Jared Polis, the official committee record of the U.S. House of Representatives for SOPA includes the lyrics to "The Internet is for Porn."

A marathon U.S. House of Representatives debate on the Stop Online Piracy Act took an unusual detour: into the popularity of online porn.

A two-day debate in the House Judiciary committee--which has been postponed until at least next Wednesday and perhaps until 2012--was interrupted by the appearance of the popular meme "The Internet is for Porn."

Rep. Jared Polis, who entered the complete lyrics of "The Internet is for Porn" into the official record of the SOPA debate
Rep. Jared Polis, who entered the complete lyrics of "The Internet is for Porn" into the official record of the SOPA debate U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat who presumably knows his way around the Internet better than any other member of Congress (he founded BlueMountainArts.com), was the committee member who decided to bring up the prevalence of online porn. (See CNET's Q&A with Polis earlier this week.)

A "high percentage" of the Internet's use is for porn, Polis said. It's "a pornographer's wet dream!"

Polis then offered an amendment that would stop the Justice Department from using SOPA's vast powers to aid adult industry businesses who happen to hold valid copyrights. "Pornography should not be the focus of the attorney general's protection," he said.

It was a brilliant tactical maneuver. First, it delayed discussions while members of the august Judiciary committee wrangled with how to handle this unusual conversational detour. Second, it put SOPA-supporting chairman Lamar Smith, a conservative Republican whose district is largely Texas Hill Country , on the defensive by appearing to show him siding with the intellectual-property rights of people who create triple-X movies.

Smith said that, although his "personal opposition" to the adult industry and its products is well-known, "we need to respect the discretion of federal law enforcement officials."

SOPA, of course, represents the latest effort from the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and their allies to counter what they view as rampant piracy on the Internet, especially on offshore sites such as ThePirateBay.org. The measure would allow the Justice Department to seek a court order to be served on search engines, Internet providers, and other companies, forcing them to make a suspected piratical Web site effectively vanish from the Internet. It's opposed by a wide range (PDF) of Internet companies, engineers, and civil liberties groups.

Third--and this may have been the point of the entire exercise--it gave Polis an excuse to insert the full lyrics of the popular Internet meme "The Internet is for Porn" into the official congressional hearing record for SOPA. (Representative excerpt: "All these guys unzip their flies / For porn, porn, porn!")

"The Internet is for Porn" was originally part of the Avenue Q musical, but it was a YouTube video, with more than 7 million views, that launched it into the Internet consciousness.

Polis, whose district includes the progressive enclave of Boulder, Colo., presumably wasn't too serious in offering his antiporn amendment (PDF), which says SOPA shall not be used "for the purpose of protecting any intellectual-property right pertaining to a work whose contents are pornographic or obscene in nature." (An aide to Polis told CNET that his boss couldn't be reached this afternoon because he was on a plane home.)

Because the amendment goes further than obscenity and encompasses "pornography," it could have imperiled the remainder of SOPA. U.S. courts have ruled that pornography is not a legal term of art and is presumptively protected by the First Amendment.

Polis' amendment, in other words, could doom SOPA on constitutional grounds: which "R" rated movies would be pornographic? How about Maxim? Explicit rap lyrics? More to the point, which MPAA and RIAA member companies might have to worry about their products being deemed "pornographic?"

But after Smith stressed that he was against the amendment, the other pro-SOPA politicos followed suit. Polis' amendment was defeated by a vote of 18 to 9.

Imagine an Internet geek running for office, perhaps none too seriously, on a platform saying: "If elected, I will insert 'The Internet is for Porn' into the congressional hearing record, which will be preserved as an official public document for all time." Whatever his motivations, Polis did just that.

 

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