I have written to all three of my congressional representatives regarding the anti-piracy legislation that is before both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Below are the responses I received.
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Thank you for contacting me regarding S.968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 , which is currently pending in the United States Senate. I appreciate knowing your views on this matter.
In the Senate, this legislation falls under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. While I am not a member of that Committee, I want to assure you that I will be following the progress of this bill and will keep your views in mind if this or related legislation comes before the full Senate for consideration.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I hope you will continue to keep in touch.
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) on October 26, 2011. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary where it is awaiting further review. Under current federal law, U.S. law enforcement officials and holders of copyrights, trademarks, and patents, have limited legal remedies available to combat internet websites that are registered in foreign countries but operate in the United States by selling products, services, and/or content that violates U.S. intellectual property law. If enacted, the proposed legislation would create an expedited process for the Department of Justice and intellectual property rights holders to shut down through a court order these websites by targeting, the owners and operators of the Internet site, if known, or the domain name registrant associated with the Internet site.
Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate on May 12, 2011, Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act. The proposed Senate legislation would require the Department of Justice to demonstrate to the Court that the Internet site accessed by the domain name is "dedicated to infringing activities." Such a website would have no other significant use other than engaging in, enabling, or facilitating infringing activities. Once a court order is issued, domestic operators of domain name servers would be required to effectively prevent online users from accessing the infringing Internet site. Providers of online information location tools would be required to take technically feasible and reasonable measures to remove or disable access to such an Internet site, including not providing a hypertext link. Finally, financial institutions involved in online transactions and Internet advertising companies would be prohibited from doing business with any Internet site subject to a Court order under the legislation. Intellectual property rights holders can take Internet payment and advertising companies to court if they believe these companies are not complying with the law.
While I am supportive of the goals of these bills, I am deeply concerned that the definitions and the means by which both pieces of legislation seek to accomplish these goals will hurt innovation and threaten online speech. Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should I have the opportunity to vote on this or similar legislation regarding intellectual property rights.
Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.
Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA7 Seattle)
Thank you for contacting me regarding your opposition to H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate your taking the time to write to me on this important issue, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
The Internet is an extremely important engine for economic growth, innovation, and communication. It helps facilitate the flow of technology and business methods, which help in small business growth. However, the Internet has been used as a way to steal these ideas, including intellectual property, to the extent that it has hurt the ability for businesses to compete in the global marketplace.
As you may know, H.R. 3261 would allow the Attorney General or an intellectual-property owner to take legal action against individuals associated with an internet site dedicated to infringing activities (ISDIA). An ISDIA is defined as having no significant purpose other than engaging in or facilitating copyright infringement. It would also facilitate legal proceedings taken by the Attorney General and the Department of Justice against foreign nationals that are associated with delinquent domain names that harm American Internet users.
I believe Congress must pursue a course that maintains a balance between the free flow of information across the Internet and protections needed for individuals that publicize their intellectual property. H.R. 3261 is at the beginning of the Congressional process now that hearings have been held in the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet. If the Subcommittee approves the bill, it may modify the text based on testimony it has received and the same may happen at the full Committee level if the bill receives hearings and a mark-up within that body. I share your strong reservations about H.R. 3261 in its current form and will be sure to keep your views in mind as this bill continues through the legislative process.
If you are interested in following a particular piece of legislation through the legislative process, the website hosted by the Library of Congress at http://thomas.loc.gov is extremely helpful. It provides a wealth of information about legislation under consideration in the current Congress as well as bills introduced in earlier sessions. The site is called Thomas to honor President Thomas Jefferson and his belief in public access to the workings of government.