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In Germany, SOPA, PIPA and Megaupload Spark Debate in Merkel's Party

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, January 26 2012

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's political party is split internally over a recent statement in support of controversial American anti-piracy legislation — and the fight is playing out on Twitter.

Two officials in Merkel's conservative CDU Party recently released a statement with a title that translates from the German as "The American SOPA-legislation points in the right direction." Then, several members of the same party took to Twitter to voice their disagreement with the statement.

The statement references the Stop Online Piracy Act, legislation stalled in the U.S. House, and related legislation in the Senate, called the Protect IP Act and further shortened to PIPA in favor of an even longer and more unwieldy name. Those bills were put on hold last week after widespread protest spurred by a nationwide coalition of online businesses.

In the statement on the party's website, the deputy chair of the CDU parliamentary group, Günter Krings, and Ansgar Heveling, who is the party's designated expert on copyright law in the parliament's law and culture and media committees, write that while some individual provisions of the SOPA and PIPA laws go too far, "also in the digital age, the CDU/CSU parliamentary group stands for strong protection of intellectual property. German copyright law is a pillar of the of rule of law and social market economy." The statement goes on to say that the investigation into Megaupload, whose founder is a German national, shows how endangered copyright law is at this point in time, when works are distributed over the Internet. The statement was released on the occasion of the postponed U.S. Senate vote on the legislation. "Even if some individual provisions of the SOPA and PIPA laws that are before the U.S. Senate go too far: the Megaupload case makes clear that we need a clear legal framework in the Internet, as is self-evident in the real world," the statement goes on to say.

The statement then addresses last week's protests. "It is astounding that Wikipedia, Google, the Green Party and many others come to the aid of money-hungry Internetcriminals like the founder of Megaupload with their protests," it reads. "They misjudge that with regards to the enforcement of copyright law it is not ... a matter of censorship, but solely a matter of protecting creative people from exploitation."

But as the German press agency DPA first reported, several other members of the parliament and the party were irritated by the statement and expressed disagreement on Twitter.

"I can't comment extensively on all personal opinions from my colleague," Member of Parliament Peter Tauber, also a member of the Internet committee, wrote on Twitter in response to an Internet activist's inquiry. "Sorry. I think nothing of SOPA and PIPA." He added, quoting a news report about the statement. "There has been no resolution [by the parliamentary group.]"

Member of Parliament Thomas Jarzombek, another member of the Internet Committee, wrote on Twitter, "Krings does not represent my opinion. And there's also been no resolution."

He was responding to an inquiry from the Junge Union, the youth wing of the party, in the city of Paderborn, asking whether Krings was speaking for the entire parliamentary group.

Peter Altmaier, the manager of the parliamentary group, wrote on Twitter that "statements from members of parliament are only binding when there are resolutions related to them."

A member of the Junge Union in the city of Eschborn had tweeted him, "Dear @peteraltmaier, how do such highly questionable PMs [press statements] like from MdB Krings even come about? #sopa #fail."

However, the DPA said that in response to its inquiry, the press agency of the parliamentary group said the communication was not a matter of a personal statement, but a declaration by the parliamentary group.

Green Party Whip Volker Beck, tweeted his agreement with another Twitter user's comment that "CDU/CSU doesn't know itself if it's in agreement with the CDU/CSU or not. sad. #pipa #sopa"

Deputy Secretary General of the CSU Party, Dorothee Bär, wrote in several replies on Twitter that "we will make our point of view clear internally," and, wrote in response to Beck that such a press statement on the parliamentary group's website "does not by a long stretch mean it's the opinion of the parliamentary group. Just because a colleague wrote an odd press statement."

This post has been corrected. Dorothee Bär is deputy secretary general of the CSU Party, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, not the CDU.

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