Meet the strange bedfellows who could stop SOPA

Is tech the last refuge from Democrat-Republican bickering?

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Ron Wyden and Darrell Issa

Source: Official Congressional photos, both found on Wikipedia (Wyden/Issa)

It's sort of gone beyond cliche at this point to say that Congress is utterly gridlocked by partisan bickering, to the extent that the Senate can barely come up with a filibuster-proof majority for a Secret Santa exchange. That's why it's kind of interesting that the battle lines over the anti-piracy (or is it pro-censorship?) SOPA bill, the biggest bit of political news in tech circles, are drawn in ways that don't match up with the traditional left-right distinction.

An early glimpse of how this issue could unite ideologically diverse politicians came when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) and Representative Ron Paul (R) both indicated their opposition to the bill. But in some ways Paul's opposition is easy to dismiss as an outlier within his party -- yes, the presidential candidate/gadfly wants to slash taxes and dismantle half the Federal government, but he also wants to legalize heroin and let Iran get nukes, so he's not exactly an orthodox Republican.

But two other elected officials who almost always find themselves on the opposite sides of the issues are spearheading a move to front a SOPA replacement: Senator Ron Wyden (D) and Darrel Issa (R) are promoting the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (called "OPEN" for short, in accordance with our Founding Fathers' wish that all laws have a stupid reductionist acronym). OPEN would, rather than creating a whole new set of Internet enforcement powers for the Justice Department, allow the U.S. International Trade Commission to fight against overseas illegal file-sharing sites (which, if you believe the RIAA's earnest letters to the editor, is what they're after anyway).

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