Dear Representative Tiberi

published

I contacted my U.S. representative, Pat Tiberi, expressing opposition to H.R.3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. He replied with an unhelpful canned response.

Dear Mr. Merrill, Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns with intellectual property. I appreciate this opportunity to correspond with you. As you may know, on October 26, 2011, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. This bill would combat the theft of U.S. intellectual property by allowing the U.S. Justice Department to seek injunctions against foreign websites that traffic in pirated goods. Moreover, the bill would prevent online thieves from selling counterfeit goods in the U.S. The bill would allow the Attorney General to shut down websites alleged to enable or facilitate copyright infringement. This bill was referred to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. While I am not a member of this committee, I look forward to reviewing this legislation and will certainly keep your views in mind should this bill be considered by the full U.S. House of Representatives. As you may know, the U.S. Senate version of this bill, S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act was introduced on May 12, 2011 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). It is important that our government protect against counterfeiting which hurts businesses, innovators, workers, and consumers. In recent years, counterfeiting has grown rapidly costing America hundreds of billions of dollars a year. I look forward to reviewing these bills further and seeing how they address this. Thank you again for taking time to contact me about this issue. Your opinions are important, and I appreciate you taking the time to share them with me. If I may be of assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sincerely, Patrick J. Tiberi Representative to Congress

I know these canned responses are generated by staffers, and it’s likely that Mr. Tiberi hasn’t even read H.R. 3261 yet. But I still felt compelled to respond:

Thank you for the reply. I would like to address a couple of items.

As you may know, on October 26, 2011, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. This bill would combat the theft of U.S. intellectual property by allowing the U.S. Justice Department to seek injunctions against foreign websites that traffic in pirated goods.

First and foremost, it is imperative that the U.S. legislators understand the difference between theft and infringement of intellectual property. There can be no theft of intellectual property, because there is no tangible property involved. Ideas cannot be stolen, only infringed upon. There are already measures in place in the U.S. for dealing with infringement, including but not limited to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Moreover, the bill would prevent online thieves from selling counterfeit goods in the U.S. The bill would allow the Attorney General to shut down websites alleged to enable or facilitate copyright infringement.

As you may know, Section 103 of the bill sets up a so-called “market-based system” to allow individuals and companies to cut off financial support from websites — both foreign and domestic — simply by sending a notice to their payment providers or ad networks. This happens outside of a court of law, with no due process and inadequate recourse for the allegedly infringing sites. For a thorough examination of how H.R.3261 threatens legitimate websites, please see: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/11/whats-blacklist-three-sites-sopa-could-put-risk

It is important that our government protect against counterfeiting which hurts businesses, innovators, workers, and consumers. In recent years, counterfeiting has grown rapidly costing America hundreds of billions of dollars a year. I look forward to reviewing these bills further and seeing how they address this.

The Government Accountability Office has debunked the claim that infringing activities are costing hundreds of billions of dollars. You can read the GAO’s report here: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10423.pdf

H.R. 3261 introduces sweeping changes to the fundamental underpinnings of the Internet. These changes are readily recognized as detrimental to anyone who uses the Internet with any regularlity. When my 14 year old step son learned of the bill, he posted the following: https://plus.google.com/u/0/114847494831461297730/posts/98jzvPHvNjp “I would like every congressman (and women) who supports the bill to look at their browser history and let me know just how many of the sites that they had been on, for SURE, will not be affected by the SOPA bill. Then I would like them to view their spouses and their kids. Following all of this i would like them to think about what they just saw for a minute and then I would like them to go vote.”

Mr. Tiberi, I agree that we need to protect creative works and U.S. enterprise, but I disagree strongly with the heavy-handed and unjust approach put forward by H.R.3261. There already exist a number of other defined processes for prosecuting infringement. H.R.3261 does nothing to help the general public of the United States, and indeed creates an atmosphere that is likely to stifle new Internet innovation. This will simply drive innovaters to operate outside of the U.S., taking with them jobs and revenues.

Please vote no on H.R. 3261.

Sincerely, Scott Merrill


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