If Grover Norquist isn't breaking up with SOPA, he's certainly taking some time to revealuate his relationship with the anti-piracy bill. The face of the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform is letting his underlings say the things he hasn't personally said about SOPA: he doesn't like it in its current form.
This is a major blow to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary committee, who proudly proclaimed last month that Americans for Tax Reform had endorsed his bill. Smith name-dropped the ATR last month as an example of the bill enjoying "broad support across the aisle here in the House, across the street in the Senate and across the country."
This wasn't much of a shock to anyone that follows the group; they are the only force outside of Hollywood trade groups who has pushed as hard for passage of anti-piracy laws.
What a difference a month makes.
"I wouldn't say we unequivocally support it," ATR communications director John Kartch told CNET in e-mail, referring to a revised version of SOPA that was released on December 12. Kartch cited SOPA's effects on innovation and free speech online as major concerns.
In fact, the group says that even with the latest revisions SOPA is a problem:
"We applaud Chairman Smith's commitment to fixing the deficiencies in the original bill and hope the chairman will allow the concerns many have with the remaining parts of the bill to be addressed," the group said in a statement. "The problem of rogue Web sites is a serious problem and it's important to take the time to craft meaningful legislation that tackles infringement, while protecting innovation and free speech online."
No one is certain why the group's support for SOPA has cooled, but one might guess that it has to do with all the attention the bill is getting online. Our feeling is that SOPA has the potential to cost both conservatives and liberals who support it their jobs in the next election cycle.
The debate over SOPA the House Judiciary committee is expected to continue this month, while the Senate is expected to take Protect IP to the floor for a vote on January 23.