Vice screengrab
Vice's screengrab of Smith's website with the copyrighted picture in the background

The hypocrisy of the US Republicans is an old story that stretches back to Richard Nixon and could fill several Wikipedia pages. It is often a matter of sex and illicit sexual trysts that led in some cases to resignation in disgrace from political office. Nevada's Senator Jim Ensign, a member of the Pentecostal church, was forced to step down after the disclosure of his extramarital affair. As a general rule, GOP politicians seem to keep getting caught with their pants down while preaching family values, as the long list on the website www.republicansexoffenders.com shows.

The latest is Tom Ganley, former Republican Congressional candidate, who faces three felony charges of gross sexual imposition and stalking. Distinguished politicians who have had to cope with public outrage include presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and former Republican California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admitted that he fathered a child out of wedlock a decade ago.

But sex is not the whole story. As Jamie Lee Curtis Taete exposes in an article on Vice.com the US Republican congressman who authored the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is allegedly himself a copyright violator.

According to Taete, Lamar Smith has used an unauthorised photograph to dress up his own website - virtually infringing the bill he is trying to push.

Taete checked that everything on Lamar's official campaign website was copyright-cleared. But he did not receive confirmation of the stock images' copyright used on Lamar's site. Looking back at an archived version of the site, Taete also discovered that a background image Lamar was using on the site was not credited.

Taete contacted DJ Shulte, the photographer who took the picture.

"I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons licence a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes," the photographer answered.

"I do not see anywhere on the screen-capture you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith's organisation did improperly use my image. According to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com."

The SOPA bill has angered activists and bloggers worldwide.

If passed, it would allow copyright holders to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling copyright infringement, reports the Huffington Post. The offending sites could be dropped by advertisers, removed from search engine results and barred from using payment processing networks.

Opponents say SOPA could do significant damage to websites that rely on user-uploaded content such as YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook and community news-sharing site Reddit.

Now it looks like SOPA's biggest supporter is himself a copyright violator. Taete and other people from Vice's staff have gathered other details of copyright infringements by other co-sponsors and supporters of the bill. With the "Shop a SOPA" campaign, the website is committed to find other examples of copyright violation and hypocrital behaviour by any of the bill's 81 sponsors.

A more sophisticated and politicised hypocrisy of Republicans has emerged, indeed.

"It is true that GOP politicians keep getting caught with their pants down, while limousine liberals are free with other people's money and misers with their own," writes A Barton Hinkle, columnist on the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "But this is not the whole story. Republicans are hypocrites about both sex and money."