To be absolutely clear I do not wear an eye patch myself, I do not condone it, I don’t torrent, I don’t download software, movies or music. My point is that the companies most affected by piracy could create better solutions to consuming their media to help alleviate the “need” to be a “pirate”. A perfect example of this is Adobe, who was faced with huge piracy numbers of their software and instead of continually attacking their users they created a subscription model to create a lower barrier of entry for their products.
Thank you for contacting me regarding internet piracy and recent legislative proposals to combat it. I appreciate your concerns and welcome the opportunity to correspond with you.
From my days registering trademarks as the Rhode Island Secretary of State, I have had a serious interest in protecting intellectual property. Artists and innovators in our state and around the country deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and creativity, and our national emphasis on strong copyright and patent protections has also fostered the growth of world-leading businesses and cultural institutions. Unfortunately, Americans are increasingly facing threats to their intellectual property from countries that lack our concern for copyright, and our government lacks the means to prevent damage to the economy from trade in counterfeit goods and the sale of copyrighted works.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), introduced in the House by Rep. Lamar Smith, and its companion legislation, Senator Patrick Leahy’s PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), were intended to provide internet service providers and law enforcement agencies the tools to combat foreign copyright infringement. Unfortunately, their methods are incompatible with both the openness that is the internet’s hallmark, and important cybersecurity protocols.
SOPA and PIPA would allow intellectual property holders to bring suit against infringing sites and could compel internet advertising services and payment processors to cease doing business with a site, cutting off its two largest revenue generators. The definition of “infringing site” used by both acts is overly broad and could easily result in legitimate sites being cut off from funding.
SOPA and PIPA also provide for civil action initiated by the Attorney General, which could ultimately require “infringing sites” to be delisted by search providers and blocked by internet service providers. The original proposal for blocking sites would have completely undermined the secure domain name system (DNSSEC), one of the building blocks for improved cybersecurity. Although that particular provision may be removed before the bills reach the House floor, any site blocking or web-search censoring runs directly counter to American values and also gives cover for repressive regimes that currently use such measures. The US is the world leader online, and we should lead by example by continuing to ensure the government has the lightest touch possible when regulating the Internet, only making exceptions in cases where our citizens are directly threatened or harmed.
For that reason, I was proud to join my colleague Rep. Darrell Issa in introducing the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act. Unlike SOPA and PIPA, the OPEN Act uses a constrained definition of “infringing site,” to ensure that only those who willfully engage in counterfeiting or other intellectual property theft will be targeted. The OPEN Act confines its reach to payment processing companies and advertisers, making it a powerful tool for law enforcement without censoring the open web. Finally, the OPEN Act relies on the International Trade Commission (ITC), a well-respected panel of copyright experts, to determine whether a site is a violator rather than relying on general courts. I am confident that the swift passage of the OPEN Act will protect intellectual property owners and maintain the open nature of the internet.
Thank you again for contacting me on this incredibly important issue. I will continue to fight for internet freedom and cybersecurity as PIPA, SOPA, and OPEN move through their various committees. I also invite you to sign-up for my monthly e-newsletter to stay up-to-date on active legislative issues. Finally, please don’t hesitate to contact me on this or any other area of concern.
Member of Congress
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