Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Al Franken Renews Defense Of Protect IP Act

Paresh Dave |
April 4, 2013 | 2:36 a.m. PDT

Executive Director

Sen. Al Franken chats with a guest after lecturing at USC on Wednesday night. (Paresh Dave/Neon Tommy)
Sen. Al Franken chats with a guest after lecturing at USC on Wednesday night. (Paresh Dave/Neon Tommy)

Franken speaks to reporters outside of Sappi Fine Paper in Cloquet, Minnesota on Jan. 18, 2012. (Sen. Franken's Flickr)
Franken speaks to reporters outside of Sappi Fine Paper in Cloquet, Minnesota on Jan. 18, 2012. (Sen. Franken's Flickr)
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) found it surprising last January that three local news vans had actually showed up to cover his tour of Sappi Fine Paper. But as Wikipedia, Craigslist, Google and thousands of other websites that day had gone "dark" in protest of online piracy legislation, the news crews wanted Franken's reaction.

The tech community had for weeks been labeling Franken a hypocrite. On the one hand, he was among the staunchest supporters in Congress of the principle known as net neutrality that says the Internet should be an equal-access medium. On the other hand, Franken was a champion of online piracy legislation that its opponents said could cripple the Internet as we know it.

Franken explained to the cameramen-turned-reporters that the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act were designed to allow federal authorities to shut down websites based outside of the U.S. whose sole purpose was piracy.

One of the cameraman asked Franken, "What about the fine print?"

"I don't know what you're referring to exactly. What fine print?" Franken replied.

"I don't know," the cameraman said.

Recalling the incident at an event in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Franken said, "That is almost always the answer I get."

He said misinformation was fueling the protests. Yet two days after the online blackout last January, Congressional leaders decided to kill the legislation. Franken agreed the best course of action was to go back to the drawing board. But lawmakers haven't made any attempts to resurrect online piracy legislation since.

Franken said online piracy remains a big problem for the nation, and especially for Hollywood. (The latest episode of Game of Thrones is said to have broke the record for the most-pirated television show.)

"Don't think this is about making sure Jim Carrey makes more money," he said Wednesday. "It's about the crew and it's about a business model for a movie. And these people overseas are stealing."

Franken, who's top campaign donor was media empire Time Warner, is a product of Hollywood. He was one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live. Since entering the Senate, he's railed hard against Silicon Valley and the tech world on issues of piracy and privacy.

WATCH Franken's complete remarks about PIPA/SOPA at the USC Casden Institute's lecture event:

SEE ALSO: Al Franken Praises Obama's Israel Speech

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