Friends in Illinois,
Several weeks back I wrote to my congressmen to oppose SOPA and PIPA because I believe that they will make doing business on the internet very hard. If webmasters live under a constant threat of having their domain’s seized by the federal government due to real or perceived copyright violations, it will be hard to run web sites that allow for user interaction (i.e., a church web content management business).
I think we should all take action.
In Illinois, Senator Dick Durbin is the only of our congressmen who has stepped up to support SOPA, so if you’re planning on writing only one of your congressmen, make it Senator Durbin. Maybe tweet something to @SenatorDurbin, call his offices at 202-224-2152. I’d tell you to contact him via his website, but it appears to be crushed by others doing the same today. Please take a minute somehow to urge him to reconsider his position for the sake of a free and censorship-free internet.
It might also be worthwhile to sign Google’s petition against these bills, if you have time.
I understand some of the arguments in favor of this legislation: that we need to protect copyright holder’s property, that we need to protect brands for reproduction and that we need to keep people safe from fraudulent pharmaceuticals. I just hope we don’t protect ourselves by giving away our freedom <cough>like we did with the Patriot Act</cough>.
Just in case you’d like to see the other side of the issue, here was the response I received from Senator Durbin’s office:
Dear Mr. Mccall:
Thank you for contacting me to express your concern about the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011 and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I appreciate hearing from you.
The bipartisan PROTECT IP Act (S. 968), which was based on last year’s Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, would authorize the Department of Justice to pursue court orders to take action against websites that are dedicated to selling pirated and counterfeit goods. I am a cosponsor of S. 968.
It is important to note that this legislation seeks to address a serious problem without inappropriately restricting Internet freedom. The Justice Department currently lacks tools to effectively enforce anti-piracy and counterfeiting laws against websites that are dedicated to distributing material in violation of these laws.
This legislation seeks to address this problem by enabling the Justice Department to target these websites through court orders, while also providing the websites with the opportunity to petition a court to lift an order. The bill is narrowly tailored so as not to include legitimate websites and it includes important procedural protections to prevent misuse of this authority. For a court order to be issued, the Justice Department must show that the website in question is directed at customers in the United States and that it harms holders of U.S. intellectual property. In addition, the Department is required to promptly serve notice of the action after the filing.
S. 968 provides a narrower definition of a website “dedicated to infringing activities” than the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. In addition, while the PROTECT IP Act would authorize the Attorney General and rights holders to bring actions against online infringers operating a rogue website or domain, the remedies are limited to blocking financial gains of the site but not blocking access. Also, this bill ensures that third-parties (e.g. internet service providers, payment processors, advertising networks) are not overly burdened to comply with an order beyond what is feasible and reasonable.
In May 2011, this bill was approved unanimously by a voice vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate will vote on whether to bring debate to a close on PROTECT IP Act in January 2012.
In the House of Representatives, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), H.R. 3261. This bill has many of the same provisions as the PROTECT IP Act, such as providing the Justice Department with legal tools to prevent foreign websites from selling copyrighted material to American consumers. However, H.R. 3261 has more stringent requirements for third-parties to comply with court orders. This bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Effective enforcement of intellectual property laws is critical to the encouragement of innovation and the creation of jobs. In recent years, we have seen a proliferation of Internet websites that are devoted to the unauthorized distribution and sale of pirated and counterfeit goods. These websites deprive innovators and businesses of revenue and result in the loss of American jobs. In addition, these websites present a public health concern when they sell counterfeit, adulterated, or misbranded pharmaceutical products.
I will keep your views in mind as the Senate considers this issue in the coming months.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator