Following the protests Wednesday that saw dozens of websites go dark in opposition to federal anti-piracy legislation, the four remaining Republican presidential candidate said the U.S. House’s bill would be a disaster for freedom on the Internet.
During a debate in South Carolina Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul all said they did not support the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
CNN moderator John King noted in his question to the candidates that CNN’s parent company Time Warner “says we need a law like this because some of its products — movies, programs and the like — are being ripped off online.”
The debate audience responded to that assertion with loud boos.
“You have everybody who’s technologically advanced, including Google and YouTube and Facebook and all the folks, who say that this is totally going to mess up the Internet, and the bill in its current form is written very badly and leads to a range of censorship that is totally unacceptable,” Gingrich explained. “I favor freedom. And I think we have a patent office. We have copyright law. If a company finds it has been genuinely infringed upon, it has the right to sue.”
Romney agreed: “I think he got it just about right. The truth of the matter is that the law is far too intrusively written, far too expansive, far too threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet.”
Paul went even further, saying that he was the “first Republican to sign on with a host of Democrats to oppose this law.”
“This bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one,” the libertarian congressman added. “I am pleased that the attitude has sort of mellowed up here because Republicans, unfortunately, have been on the wrong side of this issue.”
While Santorum agreed that the bill went “too far,” he was far less vocal about his defense of freedom on the Internet.
“The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people,” he said. “The idea that you have businesses in this country and the government has no role to protect the intellectual property of people that have those rights in this country from people overseas pirating them and then selling them back into this country, it’s great. I’m for free, but I’m not for people abusing the law.”
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Jan. 19, 2012.