A few weeks ago, on Blackout Wednesday, I joined the thousands of other people who contacted their representatives regarding the SOPA and PIPA legislation. In response to my post (which I entered into the contact forms on the web sites of Rep. Cicilline, Sen. Reed, and Sen. Whitehouse), I received the emails below. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about the responses.
Jan 21 – from Representative Cicilline
Dear Ms. Holland,
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I appreciate your taking the time to contact me and express your views on this critical issue.
I share your concerns about protecting free speech and privacy on the Internet. Over the last decade, the rapid expansion of high-speed Internet access has allowed millions of people to exchange information and ideas with one another in ways that were previously unimaginable. At the same time, we have seen repressive regimes across the world attempt to censor websites that promote dissent or democratic reforms. While these governments have had mixed records of success in stifling their opponents, their attempts at censorship have adulterated the free exchange of information.
As you may know, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), H.R. 3261, was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) on October 26, 2011. As written, this bill would allow the United States Attorney General or an intellectual property holder to take action against the owner of a nondomestic domain that promotes or enables copyright infringement. H.R. 3261 has garnered 25 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
After careful review of the proposed legislation and reflecting on the concerns expressed to me by many Rhode Islanders, I have decided to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act, as it is currently drafted. Although I am deeply concerned that online piracy is a serious issue confronting American businesses and intellectual property owners, as currently written, SOPA presents undue burdens on the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and due process, poses significant threats to the Internet remaining open, safe and secure, and could stifle future innovation that would be counterproductive to the future growth and development of our nation.
Substantial revisions of the proposed bill are now expected, and I will continue to pay close attention to new legislative developments. Please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind should this or any other legislation concerning online piracy be considered by the House.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding SOPA. Your thoughts and opinions on this issue are of great value, and I will be sure to consider them as we continue to review the matter in Congress. Please feel free to use my office as a resource at any time and visit my website at www.cicilline.house.gov for up-to-date information on a wide range of issues before Congress.
David N. Cicilline
Member of Congress
P.S. Please be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter so we can stay in touch about the issues most important to you. Just visit my website at www.cicilline.house.gov and sign up today.
Jan 25 – from Senator Whitehouse
Dear Mrs. Holland:
Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (“Protect IP”) Act of 2011. I have heard from many Rhode Islanders voicing concerns over this legislation, and I appreciate having the benefit of your views.
The Senate was expected to take up this legislation at the end of January. As you may know, Majority Leader Reid decided not to move forward with the bill at this time so that concerns raised by you and so many other Americans can be addressed. Online theft of American intellectual property is a serious concern, but I agree with Senator Reid that holding off on this bill right now is the best thing to do.
Online theft is a challenging issue because it violates American property rights and harms American jobs and consumers. At the same time, maintaining the integrity of Internet infrastructure, and preventing censorship of speech online, is vital to our access to information in the 21st Century.
I have heard from Rhode Island artists and businesses about significant losses in income as the products of their hard work become available through rogue overseas websites. American copyright and trademark holders create millions of jobs, generate billions of dollars in tax revenue, and manufacture products we use every day – from pharmaceuticals to computer software. Foreign websites dedicated to selling fraudulent products are the most visible part of a massive cybercrime industry that threatens American jobs, and can result in American consumers being seriously injured, whether by fake prescription drugs or dangerous counterfeit electronics.
Over the past several months, I also have heard from many Rhode Islanders about provisions in the bill that would restrict access to foreign websites dedicated to infringing activity. Others have raised concerns about the bill’s possible unintended security and technological consequences. I believe many of the concerns that have been raised can, and must, be addressed. I had hoped to address them in an open Senate process of debate and amendment.
Like you, I am dedicated to maintaining free speech on the Internet. I will not support measures that hinder free speech online, nor will I back any effort that could undermine the structural integrity of the Internet. I will be taking a second look at this legislation, and will work with my colleagues in the Senate to make improvements to it that address these concerns.
Again, thank you for contacting me. As you know, this issue has brought a tremendous outpouring of debate and political organizing across the Internet. This debate has helped to shape my views on this issue and had a clear effect on the legislative process. I am pleased to see so many people take an active role in our democracy. I hope that you’ll continue to keep me informed of your thoughts on this, or any other matter of concern to you.
United States Senator
Jan 26 – from Senator Reed
Dear Mrs. Holland:Thank you for making sure I knew of your concerns with PIPA and SOPA.Like you, I believed these bills were too broad and could have damaging impacts on innovation and other important policy goals. I am pleased that bills were pulled from consideration by the Senate and House of Representatives.Now, the task is to ensure that we find a way to balance the real economic costs of Chinese and other international piracy with concerns about security and Internet fairness. I plan to be part of that dialogue, and I look forward to hearing from you about this and other issues in the future.As always, please do not hesitate to write, call, or visit my website, www.reed.senate.gov, for information regarding this or any other matter.Sincerely,Jack ReedUnited States SenatorPlease do not reply to this email address as this is an outbound mailbox only. If you’d like to send a message, please do so athttp://reed.senate.gov/contact/contact-share.cfm. Thank you.